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Interesting facts about bottled water

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Bottles, bottles, everywhere

By Ramon Cruz Posted Wed Mar 26, 2008 12:38pm PDT

This post is by Ramon Cruz, Senior Policy Analyst for Living Cities at Environmental Defense Fund.

It's ironic. In many parts of the world, there is no clean drinking water. Here in the U.S., pure, drinkable water flows out of every tap, and yet Americans buy a staggering amount of bottled water. We pay big bucks for it, too — more than $15 billion a year.

Worse of all, the bottles are overflowing our landfills and contributing to global warming. Take a look at this video from Doug James:

Also illustrating the case against bottled water:

More than a quarter of bottled water is just processed tap water, including Pepsi's Aquafina and Coca-Cola's Dasani. Despite this, bottled water consumption is growing at 10 percent a year, faster than any other beverage. We drink 15 times more bottled water today than we did in 1976.

This doesn't mean we're healthier, despite the ads. Federal regulations for municipal water are far more stringent. Bottled water rules allow higher levels of many contaminants, with more lenient requirements for filtration, testing, and reporting. See NRDC’s bottled water report for details of contaminants by brand.

The earth isn’t healthier for it, either. According to the Pacific Institute’s fact sheet (PDF), manufacturing the 30+ billion plastic water bottles we bought in 2006 required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, and used three times the amount of water in the bottle.

And these numbers don't include transporting the bottles. Nearly 25 percent of bottled water crosses national borders before reaching consumers.

Adding in transportation, the energy used comes to more 50 million barrels of oil equivalent -- enough to run 3 million cars for a year.

Case study: Fiji water

Fiji Water produces more than a million bottles of water a day, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have reliable drinking water (see this Fast Company article). Adding to the irony, Fiji itself uses almost no bottled water, according to a Pacific Institute report (PDF). They export it.

Shipping Fiji Water around the world increases its environmental footprint. Manufacturing and shipping a one-liter bottle produces over half a pound of greenhouse gas emissions and uses nearly 7 times the amount of water in the bottle, according to calculations by Pablo Päster on TriplePundit.

The heavy use of water is as serious as the greenhouse gas emissions. Water is fast becoming a scarce resource.

What about recycling?

Recycling would help, but we don’t usually do it. Less than 20 percent of the 28 billion single-serving water bottles that Americans buy each year are recycled. Some estimates are as low as 12 percent.

According to a Container Recycling Institute report (PDF), the national recycling rate for all beverage containers is 33 percent. In states with deposit systems, the rate jumps to 65-95 percent. But of the 11 states with deposit laws, only three include containers for non-carbonated beverages (like water), though non-carbonated beverages now comprise 27 percent of the market.

Last November, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) introduced a national bottle bill to address global warming that includes water bottles and other non-carbonated beverage containers.

The beverage industry, which long resisted deposit laws, has started to cooperate — mainly because it sees bottled water as the answer to the soda sales slump. Following months of bad publicity, manufacturers like Coke, Pepsi, and Nestlé have begun making lighter-weight plastic bottles and are encouraging consumers to recycle.

Better yet, carry tap water

If you buy bottled water, recycle the bottle. But the better solution — for you and the environment — is to drink tap water, both at home and at restaurants:

Tap water is cleaner than most bottled water.

Tap water is delivered to homes and offices for $0.002 a gallon. Bottled water, which can cost as much per gallon as gasoline, is a thousand times more expensive.

The quality of municipal water in the U.S. is generally excellent. Don’t let the recent reports about pharmaceuticals in tap water deter you — see this TreeHugger post for why.

But if you don’t trust tap water or you have old plumbing or you think tap water tastes funny, then try a water filter like those from PUR or Brita. To learn more about water filters, check out the rated list of water filter review sites at Consumer Search.

To carry water with you, use a reusable container filled with tap water. But don’t reuse single-use water bottles. This can expose you to bacterial build-up and carcinogens leached from the plastic.

Quite a few companies make reusable water bottles. There’s an ongoing debate about the safety of the polycarbonate plastic some use, but there are many safe reusable bottles made from other materials.

Use it or lose it

National Geographic’s Green Guide notes, "the federal share of funding for water systems has declined from 78 percent in 1973 to 3 percent today." This places the financial burden almost entirely on local governments.

Food and Water Watch also talks about how important it is to stop this trend and maintain the quality of municipal water. Its Take Back the Tap (PDF) report gives a detailed overview of the issues surrounding tap water versus bottled water.

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Filed: Citizen (pnd) Country: Mexico
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i use a filter.. tap water tastes so bad in this area...

in mexico we use 5gallon (or 6? the same big ones they use in offices) containers @ home.. yes as everybody knows tap water is not safe in Meheeco, that's why we have lots of bottled water... here in the USA, I don't mind drinking it if it doesn't taste like chlorine or other stuff.. but even the slightest taste of something in it disgusts me..

what I drink a lot is bottled soda water, I love it

Edited by pedroh

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Filed: Country: United Kingdom
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The stuff that comes out of our taps here in Indiana stinks like a swimming pool it is SO heavily chlorinated. We buy big gallon containers instead and keep them in the fridge. When we get our kitchen re-modelled we'll fit a water filter instead.

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Filed: Country: Jamaica
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Last year, we were voted best tasting tap water. I think I heard today we may have repeated that win.


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Filed: Citizen (pnd) Country: Italy
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The stuff that comes out of our taps here in Indiana stinks like a swimming pool it is SO heavily chlorinated. We buy big gallon containers instead and keep them in the fridge. When we get our kitchen re-modelled we'll fit a water filter instead.

Same here :thumbs:


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Filed: Citizen (pnd) Country: Mexico
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save water

drink beer


El Presidente of VJ

regalame una sonrisita con sabor a viento

tu eres mi vitamina del pecho mi fibra

tu eres todo lo que me equilibra,

un balance, lo que me conplementa

un masajito con sabor a menta,

Deutsch: Du machst das richtig

Wohnen Heute

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Filed: Country: Philippines
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The stuff that comes out of our taps here in Indiana stinks like a swimming pool it is SO heavily chlorinated. We buy big gallon containers instead and keep them in the fridge. When we get our kitchen re-modelled we'll fit a water filter instead.

We've saved about 10 of the 1 gallon water bottles which we refill at a water machine at our nearby grocery store for a quarter a bottle. It's a bit of hassle hauling 'em back and forth...I want to look into getting an under-the-sink filter system.

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Filed: AOS (pnd) Country: Benin
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I never understood the need either. When bottled water first appeared in the US, I couldn't believe there would be a market for it.

I have to admit, though, that when I was staying with my parents on maternity leave a year and a half ago, after 11 years of living abroad, I kept forgetting that I could get water out of the sink in the bathroom. My bedroom was downstairs and I was so HUGE strangers would congratulate me on having twins and often ask if I was having triplets, so I would lie in bed or sit on the sofa and ask myself if I really was thirsty enough haul my bulk upstairs to refill my cup. My parents don't buy bottled water, but they have a spigot in their fridge, and I was so conditioned to getting my water from a cooler, that I just didn't consider that it was the same water coming out of the sink. I would actually sit there and go thirsty, or make the trek up the stairs. It was only after about a month that I started to remember that I could drink from the tap.


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Filed: Citizen (pnd) Country: Hong Kong
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If tap water is cleaner than most bottled water, why does bottled water taste better than tap water?


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Filed: Other Country: United Kingdom
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From what I understand tap water quality is regulated by the EPA, while bottled water is regulated by the FDA and is subject to fewer checks.

NJ tap water tastes perfectly fine and I don't have a problem drinking it. Back in LA though the water came out cloudy because of calcium deposits. Nothing wrong with it - but it doesn't look very appetising.

The wife's family has gotten into a habit of drinking bottled water and we've maintained the myth. I guess its more psychological than anything else.

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WE stopped drinking bottled water when we realized the environmental damage - we bought a water filter instead. If we are travelling or whatever and need to get bottles water we always make sure it's from the US and recycle the bottle.


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