Bottle Water vs. Tap Water?
Bottle water costs as much as 15,000 times more than tap water. In a report by the Beverage Recycling Institute, "Water, Water Everywhere: the Growth of Non-Carbonated Beverages in the US" notes that sales of plastic bottle water 1 liter and less increased more than 100 percent from 2002 to 2005. The bottle water segment in the worldwide beverage industry is bottled water. This universal solvent will exceed sales of milk and coffee becoming the second most consumed beverage next to soft drinks by 2004. However, this product may contain impurities and may not live up to many of the brand labels pristine sounding names. Many bottlers just use reprocessed water from municipal water supplies.
Bottled water is big business. In 2002 worldwide sales of bottled water were $35 billion dollars. In 2002 the United States sold 7.7 billion dollars worth of bottled water showing an increase in sales of 11 percent from 2001.
While the people think this water is better than tap water this is not the case. While the names on the bottles may sound wonderful they can be misleading. According to Coop America 40 percent of bottled water comes from the tap. Also, this water may or may not be further purified depending upon the independent bottler. In 1997, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization stated that bottled water does not have greater nutritional value than tap water.
Ironically, municipal water system do a much more extensive job in testing water for contaminants mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency or state regulatory agencies. However, bottle water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration and has very relaxed regulations if any. Such industry standards, monitoring and even enforcement for bottled water is largely self-regulated. This radically differs with controls placed on tap water requirements. For example if bottled water is sold within the same state it is produced then FDA does not regulate it. Most bottled water brand are sold in a single state operation and the majority states have very modest if any enforcement activity. Also testing of bottle water is significantly less than tap water. There are exceptions to this rule since states like California , New York and Texas have mandatory programs for disinfection standards to reduce possible contaminants. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment tested 80 bottled water samples from manufacturers and stores. They found that all 80 samples had detectable levels of chlorine, fluoride and sodium. 78 contained some nitrates which in large concentrations can cause blue baby syndrome. In another type of test done by a private firm, Idaho Pure Health Solutions, found that certain bacteria will grow in bottled waters after several weeks.
Another concern is that bottled water generates a lot of plastic waste. Each year 1.5 million tons of plastic are used in bottled water according to the World Wildlife Fund. It is estimated only ten percent of these plastic bottles are recycled in the US . The Container Recycling Institute estimates that American water bottles yearly consume 1.5 million barrels of oil, or enough to generate electricity to a quarter million homes for a year. Worldwide some 22 million tons of bottled water is transported from country to country impacting our air. The Container Recycling Institute cites that the overall recovery rate for drink containers was 34% in 2004, it was only 15% for custom PET bottles which includes bottled water. As sales of bottled water spirals up the amount of PET bottles being disposed of also increases.
Public drinking water supply advocates wish to address the challenges confronted by existing aged tap water infrastructure. United States EPA has accounted that 527 small water systems exist today serving 25 to 3,300 people. It estimates that the price tag to maintain these systems will cost $ 138 billion by 2014. Also it was estimated by EPA that 46,500 small systems serve only 10% of the population but will cost in the next 20 years per household $3,300. This cost is due to deferred maintenance, failure to replace or upgrade failing systems, lack of planning and insufficient rate structures to set aside funds to improve infrastructure
Some environmental advocates say the government must focus their limited resources on protecting groundwater and watersheds. However, most consumers are unaware about the quality of the expensive bottled water they purchased compared to the cost and quality of their tap water.
* Information from this paper came from "Why Bottle Water?", Brian Howard, E Magazine, September/October 2003 pg 27-39
 Jen Boulden and Heather Stephenson, "Kicking the Bottle," page 16, Plenty, August 2006 www.plentymag.com
Copyright Rob Arner - All Rights Reserved.
graphic design: WebGraphics