When asked why he didn’t drink water, W.C. Fields replied, “Because fish f… in it”
Water drinking is great for thirst, and a $10 billion gift to the bottled water industry. Over half the U.S. population drinks bottled water at a yearly cost of $1,500 per person, about 3,000 times the cost of tap water estimated at 49 cents per person. (Think how many mortgages might have been rescued in the past three years.) Is buying bottled water pouring money down the drain, or worse, is it really good for our health compared to tap water? Senior attorney Erik Olson of the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) explains that the FDA has never adopted all the EPA regulatory drinking water standards, and has not even ruled on some points after years of inaction. According to the NRDC up to 40% of bottled water is actually bottled tap water, while the FDA rules allow bottlers to call their product “spring water” even though it may be from a pumped well and treated with chemicals.
Some key differences between testing requirements for tap water vs. bottled water, are shocking, for example, disinfection of bottled water, banning of E.coli, filtration for pathogens and testing for Giardia and Cryptosporidium are not required, but are mandatory for big city surface tap water. See this report.
While we may reasonably choose to use bottled water for convenience, taste or as a temporary alternative to contaminated tap water, it is certainly no long-term national solution to water consumption. As the NRDC also observers, a major shift to bottled water could undermine funding for tap water protection, raising serious health issues for the entire population. Moreover, manufacture and shipping of billions of plastic bottles causes significant and unnecessary energy and petroleum consumption. The Earth Policy Institute in Washington has estimated it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make water bottles Americans use yearly. Less than a quarter of these bottles are recycled, and those remaining are put in landfills or incinerated leading to release of environmental toxins.
By all means, keep that nipple handy when there’s no tap water available during a civil emergency, on a camping trip, or when you find yourself in a third world country. Otherwise you might think of protecting your health and saving some money.