Is Bottled Water Worth the Cost?


I’ve never been a big fan of bottled water. Initially, my distaste for bottled water was due to my feelings that drinkers of bottled water were trying to either appear more refined than me or healthier than me. Either way, I didn’t like it.

Eventually, my distaste for bottled water focused on how the whole concept of bottling and selling water in an industrialized nation, like the U.S., is incredibly unfriendly towards the environment. When I think of how much fossil fuel goes into the manufacture of all of those little plastic bottles which are then filled with water and then flown to America from places like France and Fiji at the expense of burning more fossil fuels so that Americans can drive around in their fossil fuel burning monster-sized SUVs while drinking the stuff and then the empty bottles are carted away by fossil fuel burning trucks and are deposited in land fills where they then take about 450 years to decompose.....well, I think you get my point.

Now I have a new reason to not like bottled water. Could bottled water be dangerous to human health? I just read an article called “Bottled Water Under Scrutiny” (C&En News, July 13, 2009). A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report points out that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to require bottled water companies to use certified labs to test their water quality or to report their test results. The EPA, on the other hand, regulates municipal tap water, and certified labs MUST be used to test municipal tap water. In addition, suppliers of tap water must provide annual quality reports to consumers of their water. The article goes on to point out that only two of 188 bottled water companies provide customers with quality testing information from certified labs.

That makes me feel a whole lot better about using the water fountain right outside the door to my office. I feel comfortable knowing that the water I drink every day in Chicago and Evanston is regularly tested. I have no idea how the quality of the water from the vending machine downstairs compares to the quality of the water from the city. I think I’ll stick with the water fountain outside my office door. It will give me peace of mind, save me money, and be much more friendly towards the environment.




What's so odd about bottled water is that the market seemed to spring up without demand. Fifteen years ago I don't ever recall hearing, "Gee, I wish I had a bottled water." If you were exercising, you drank from a fountain or brought your own bottle. Rarely did I see anyone in a restaurant take a waiter up on his offer for Pellegrino or the like.

It would be an interesting read to hear an account of how this industry grew. It's the poster child for slick marketing of a product nobody really needs.

It's not the same in every country: in Australia our bottled water is under strict regulation. Also, the use of plastic in bottles for water fountains is minimal as they are re-used. However, I agree with you on many points.

For disclosure, we work with Tranuil Water in Sydney.

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