Ithaca Blog

Saturday, August 04, 2007

What, Now We Shouldn't Drink Bottled Water?

W.C. Fields wouldn't have this problem. He never drank water, he once said, because of the things fish do in it.

Of course, W.C. was no paragon of health, and we know that drinking plenty of fresh, clean water is an excellent health habit.

But Americans today are drinking four billion gallons of water a year in store-bought, individual-serving bottles, and the commercial water industry is turning into an environmental health hazard.

Water bottles are a petroleum-based product. It takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That's as much fuel as 100,000 cars use.

It also takes a lot of fuel to transport those billions of pounds of water from the source, to the distributor, to the retailer, to the consumer.

Unlike beer and soda, bottled water is exempt from deposit and redemption programs. Almost 80 percent are thrown away rather than recycled.

It's a lot of waste simply for the convenience of a bottle. In most places, commercial water is not superior to the water from the tap. In fact, in many cases it is water from the tap.

It's also a waste of money. Someone choosing commercial water for their eight recommended servings a day will spend well over $1,000 a year. The same amount of tap water costs less than a dollar.

This summer, San Francisco prohibited its city agencies and departments from spending money on bottled water. The mayor noted that the city's municipal water is "some of the most pristine on the planet."

Then, of course, there are the larger geo-political issues of private companies potentially seeking to buy up sources of this most necessary, public resource for commercial gain.

So don't be like W.C., but also don't believe the rap, or fall into the trap. Instead, turn on the tap.

Stephen Burke
for Ithaca Blog

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