"In Praise of Tap Water"

Somewhere in America, executives for bottled water companies, and their paid spokesmen, are panicking. As well they should be: there is a growing sense in America that bottled water is a sham, with costs to the environment and to the commons.

I've written about this before, but I'm delighted to see that the paper of record has joined the discussion. From The New York Times:
Americans are increasingly thirsty for what is billed as the healthiest, and often most expensive, water on the grocery shelf. But this country has some of the best public water supplies in the world. Instead of consuming four billion gallons of water a year in individual-sized bottles, we need to start thinking about what all those bottles are doing to the planet’s health.

Almost all municipal water in America is so good that nobody needs to import a single bottle from Italy or France or the Fiji Islands. Meanwhile, if you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents.

The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated that it takes about 1.5 million barrels of oil to make the water bottles Americans use each year. That could fuel 100,000 cars a year instead. And, only about 23 percent of those bottles are recycled, in part because water bottles are often not included in local redemption plans that accept beer and soda cans.

Tap water may now be the equal of bottled water, but that could change. The more the wealthy opt out of drinking tap water, the less political support there will be for investing in maintaining America’s public water supply. That would be a serious loss. Access to cheap, clean water is basic to the nation’s health.

The real change, though, will come when millions of ordinary consumers realize that they can save money, and save the planet, by turning in their water bottles and turning on the tap.

1 comment:

Dingo said...

My friend, Brantley, writes:

Count me among the tap water faithful, though I prefer to use a filter if possible. What's the official verdict on Brita, Pur, etc., anyway?

Honestly, I never gave it much thought. We've always used a PUR pitcher, but not because of any exhaustive research on filter efficacy. It just happens to be the pitcher we bought about 10 years ago.

Here is what I dug up ... ConsumerSearch ranks both PUR and Brita highly.

I found a comparison chart with a lot of useful information, particularly the "cost of use," although its from a biased source, as evidenced in the discussion here.

Overall, it looks like the major brands all do a good job, so choice comes down to cost, availability and preference, I guess.

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