By Jonathan Moberly, Document Management Intern
A few days ago me and one of my roommates were talking about bottled water. While we both agreed the idea of purchasing something that you can get practically for free from your sink is ridiculous, he buys bottled water in bulk. For him, it is just convenient to have a bottle of water handy so he’ll buy a variety pack whenever he sees them on sale. Although I had assumed that bottled water isn’t any better for you and already knew it is wasteful, I had never thought much about it.
After me and my roommate talked about it, I decided to look at whether there were actually any benefits to bottled water. There aren’t. First off, it is vastly more expensive than tap water, to the tune of $1.27 per gallon vs $0.0015 per gallon according to the Sierra Club. Nevertheless, the market for bottled water is vast, both in the United States and globally; in 2011, 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the U.S. Although the market suffered during the recession, beverage companies see bottled water as a tremendous growth area compared to stagnating sales of soda. Although the United States is the biggest market, sales are growing rapidly worldwide. Despite the huge cost advantage to drinking tap water, sales of bottled water are projected to increase faster than many mainstream beverages.
Additionally, although many people may buy bottled water thinking that it is safer than tap water, this is not necessarily the case. The United States offers some of the safest tap water in the world and public water services are heavily regulated. While the Safe Drinking Water Act requires the EPA to test tap water in the lab, the FDA, which regulates bottled water, cannot require such testing. Additionally, although you may see a picture of a pristine mountain on the bottle, most bottled water comes from the same source as municipal water and is just filtered tap water. If water quality were truly a concern, a much more economical solution would be to buy a home filter; a Brita pitcher would run about $10.00.
Not only is purchasing bottled water costly and unnecessary, it also is damaging to the environment. A considerable amount of oil goes into production of each bottle and if you are willing to pay a premium for water from the French Alps or a Pacific Island the emissions from transportation can really add up. Furthermore, the bottles themselves are primarily ending up in landfills as only one in seven gets recycled. This problem is something I can relate to as my roommate who buys bottled water doesn’t even consider recycling when he throws away his empty bottles. In essence, bottled water is expensive, unnecessary and wasteful.
Personally, I rarely buy bottled water. Until a bad experience in Chile, I would drink tap water while traveling without thinking twice. I don’t expect other people to stop drinking bottled water but the facts are speak for themselves: it makes no sense to pay for what you can have for free.