The cost of bottled water is obviously higher than the water running from your tap, but most consumers can’t tell the difference when it comes to taste.
In fact, many bottlers simply use reprocessed water from municipal water supplies, with reprocessed water making up as much as 40 percent of the bottled water market.
For example, Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coca Cola’s Dasani bottled waters use artistic packaging to give the impression that they come from crystal clear mountain springs, instead of bottled at plants using processed water from municipal sources.
The human body is made up of about 70 percent water, and we need to continuously consume water to keep our systems healthy, but do our bodies know the difference between tap and bottled water?
Is Tap Water Safe to Drink?
Tap water in Canada is known to be fairly safe to drink and clean in comparison to other countries. However, water quality does vary based on time of year and location, and can change on a daily basis. According to Arthur von Wiesenberger (creator of Bottled Water Web) , one problem associated with tap water is the use of chlorination. In his article Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Bottled Water, von Wiesenberger explains that tap water containing chlorination kills bacteria but can produce trihalomethanes, which are found to be carcinogenic.
Federal regulatory agencies in Canada determine the standard for a chemical in drinking water based on “reasonable risk”, whereby if one million people drank water for a period of seventy years with the amount of chemical in it equal to the standard, one person would probably get cancer from the drinking water — what my regional water commission considers “a very small risk”.
Is Bottled Water Safe to Drink?
On the other side of the spectrum, we are faced with the choice of many varieties of bottled water that claim to contain minerals to enhance one’s health. Nonetheless, this seemingly pure alternative to tap water also has repercussions. Bottles that have been scratched or that are exposed to heat can cause the plastic to leach chemicals like phthalates and [tooltip text="Also called BPA. In 2010, a report from the United States FDA raised concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants and young children to BPA. In September of that year Canada became the first country to declare BPA as a toxic substance. BPA is now banned for use in baby bottles in the European Union and in Canada. "]bisphenol-A[/tooltip]; these are also chemicals that have been linked to cancer, early puberty, neurological problems, obesity and birth defects in humans.
TreeHugger touts the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for tap water as being more stringent than the Food and Drug Administration’s standards for bottled water, mounting another safety strike against drinking bottled water in the United States.
Bottled Water and the Environment
The effects bottled water has on the environment are astounding. Imported water, for example, takes a particularly damaging toll on our world. Bottled water from places like Fiji or the Swiss Alps has thousands of miles to travel to reach consumers in North America. The planes, trains, automobiles and ships used to transport bottled water from far off locales use millions of gallons of gas each day.
Another bleak fact is that, despite the availability of recycling bins, nearly 90 percent of empty water bottles end up in the trash — not the blue bins — resulting in junk heaps filled with buried water bottles that can take up to one thousand years to biodegrade.
The Economics of Bottled Water
“Bottled water has experienced double digit growth world-wide over the past decade. This is a global phenomenon unlikely to abate in the foreseeable future,” says Henry R. Hidell, author of Bottled Water: What Makes It Work?
“Private industry players such as Nestle, Coke, Pepsi, and Danone have gained a foothold in Asia, Africa, and many other markets.” Hidell explains that bottled water sales are at an all time high in both Canada and the United States and this rapid economic growth shows no sign of slowing down. Consumers are being bombarded with options ranging from nutrient-added, mineral, sparkling, and flavored water to choose from.
A Better Option for Safe Drinking Water: In-Home Water Filtration
So, if both tap and bottled water have the potentially negative side effects, what do we do to resource clean, sustainable, and economically affordable water?
An alternative option to drinking bottled water or tap water “straight up” is to combine easy home water filters with portable stainless steel, or glass containers. Spending money on faucet, under-counter or pitcher filters as opposed to bottles of water will save consumers an enormous amount of money each year, while sparing the environment from further damage.
Of course, in the end, the choice is up to the consumer. Knowing all the facts is key to making an educated decision on water consumption. Read labels closely to uncover exactly goes into the processing of your favorite bottled water and compare it to your region’s filtering system and added in-home filtration accessories. Inevitably, we must face the facts that bottled water is environmentally hazardous as well as expensive.
Clean and safe drinking water should be available to all persons, but looking beyond the fancy labels and slickly-designed bottles may lead us to a truth that is hard to swallow.