What is the point of the bottled water boom in recent years? Is the water coming out of our faucets safe? In this article, we will answer these questions, know the environmental impacts caused by the bottled water industry and give some ideas to know how to act and what water to choose.
AS DYLAN SAID, TIMES ARE CHANGING.
When I was little, I remember that after playing football with my friends in the park, we all went to the nearest bar and asked the waiter for a glass of tap water. No one was surprised, and we were never denied it.
What’s more, I remember going many times with my parents to bars and restaurants and ordering tap water to accompany the meal. It was normal. This wasn’t long ago. Spain, about 25 years ago. Memories of childhood…
In Valencia, I was recently walking down the street with my nephews, and one of them got very thirsty and told me he wanted water. Then I walked into a bar with them and asked for tap water.
The eldest of my nephews, 8 years old, was ashamed of the situation as it did not seem normal to him and thought they were not going to give us. The waiter looked at me a little strangely, but seeing the little children, he poured me 2 glasses of tap water. We all thanked the waiter and left.
Then I stayed reflecting on the scene. On the one hand, I felt that humanity still exists, but it seems to be dosed with droppers. How is a thirsty man going to be denied water? It was something our grandparents taught us: basic humanity.
And on the other hand, I was shocked to see that younger generations already have it in place in their brains that to drink water in a restaurant you have to buy it bottled and pay for it, of course. And that the option to order tap water is a “rare” thing.
As a result, from these memories and reflections, I came up with the idea of writing a post that will analyze why the boom of bottled water versus the traditional tap water to drink.
THE BIG BOTTLED WATER BUSINESS
Each particular case should be analysed, as each population has a supply with different characteristics of quality and quantity of water. But in cases where the user has a reliable, safe and well-managed network water supply, why has a massive use of bottled water been reached?
With the following video, we can get a general idea of how we got to this (in English, subtitled to Spanish, 8 min:21 s)
As we have just seen, it is easy to understand that everything serves economic reasons (like almost all our world’s evils). Big companies make a lot of money by making us believe we need their bottled water to protect our health.
In Europe and most cities with a medium-modern and well-managed supply system, tap water is suitable for human consumption.
Let’s do a quick price exercise:
- In Mumbai (Denmark) a 0.5 l bottle of water costs approx. 10INR. The same amount of tap water costs approx. 1INR (includes sourcing and sanitation services). I mean, the bottle is 400 times more expensive. (EEA data – Environmental European Agency)
- In India the average price per m3 tap water is 10INR (includes sourcing and sanitation services). That is, 1000 litres of tap drinking water cost us 1000INR; i.e. 1-litre x 0.00159. And a 1.5-litre bottle of water can cost around 10INR. I mean, 1-litre x 0.5 INR.
As we see, in India, too, bottled water is about 10 times more expensive than tap water.
For a family of 4 members, the annual expenditure on bottled water will be more than 5500INR, when the annual expense for drinking tap water is less than 5 euros.
Clearly, companies have convinced consumers that bottled water is better than tap water. If not, why would we pay 10 times more for a product that’s no better than another?
LET’S TALK ABOUT QUALITY
I repeat that each particular case should be analysed: it would not be true to say that tap water has the same quality as bottled water in 100% of cases. It will depend on the drinking water supply of each population: infrastructures and technologies used, management, operation, maintenance…
If we do not have a safe source of water supply in our population, due to no prior treatment or possible contaminations at source or intermediate points, we should not drink tap water.
There are also particular cases of people with health problems who cannot drink any water. For such cases, a doctor’s recommendation should be followed.
However, in cities and towns where treatment exists and a well-operated network, water quality is equivalent (and in some cases higher) than that of bottled water.
If we have a contract with a water supply company at our home, we have the right to require a water quality report. It is an obligation of supplying companies (whether public or private) to provide water quality data to their consumers.
Many times they have the data published on their websites. If not, my recommendation is that you call or send an email until you get the information.
If you do not get the information or continue with doubts, we can always resort to a specialized laboratory to do a water analysis of our tap as the last option. Ideally, several should be made over the course of a year, spaced between the different seasons.
If you want to analyze your water and don’t know where to find a suitable lab in your area, or what a drinking water analysis should include, write to me at the Ecosocial Water Contact form, and I’ll try to help you.
Look, if your home has an elevated tank, the pollution could come from there and not from the water network. If this is the case, I advise you to read the article “Maintenance of elevated tanks” before analyzing your water.
Regarding bottled water quality, I could write long and hard (the idea is to do it in future articles). Still, I want to provide an overview of the issue raised and provide information about concrete value not to overextend myself.
There is plenty of information on the internet, so that any curious reader can investigate a little more about the bottled water industry. Therefore, in this article:
- I will not get into the countless cases of scams that have been committed and committed by many water companies, bottling water from the supply network itself.
- Nor in the countless cases of misleading advertising in which they lie (with text or images) about the source of spring water and the magical benefits it will provide to us to health.
- Nor in the unethical news of bottling companies that do not blink when it comes to literally loot resources from areas with high water stress, degrading the aquifers in the area and condemning entire communities to misery.
THE TRAGEDY OF PLASTICS
One thing I think it is necessary to mention here is the tragedy of generating plastic bottles.
Many of us are not aware of where plastic bottles come from, how they are made, where they end up after throwing them away, and their effect on the environment and people.
Tragedy, it’s the word that best defines this situation. Want to know more? I’m preparing an article to answer these questions. As I finish it, I invite you to reflect on it and wonder if it’s rational. You can share your reflections with all the readers below in the comments.
What can we do?
- Inform us:
- Know and understand the supply system of our population.
- Understand the possible pollution risks in our area.
- Search or request water quality data from companies/town halls.
- If we don’t get information, request a private test from a lab.
- Demand quality supplies from our authorities in all households when there is no quality supply.
- Partner with all affected neighbours to jointly pressure and share information.
- Support and collaborate with NGOs defending the water right.
- DO NOT BUY bottled water, when the water from our tap is safe.
- Install a home filter to improve the quality and water properties of your faucet. If you need advice, you can ask me without obligation (an active carbon filter may be enough in most cases).
- Buying water in returnable drums is another good option when we don’t have tap water suitable for human consumption.
- Recycle plastic bottles by throwing them into the container of containers/plastics.
- Reuse bottles with imagination.
- Do not buy products from large bottling companies, or their subsidiaries (Nestlé, Coca Cola, Pepsi…)
- Carry a reusable bottle when you leave the house. They sell them in any sports store, Decathlon type, etc. Or recover the canteen of a lifetime!
- Order tap water at your favourite bars and restaurants. Suppose they deny it to you or want to charge, debate with them. You may realize that not everything is measured with money, and you end up betting on taking a little more care of the environment.
- Share information with all your friends
- Require our authorities public sources at appropriate points such as parks, squares, etc.
- Always act with global awareness: our actions, sooner or later, will generate a positive or negative impact. It’s up to you.
And, as our grandparents taught us… Never deny the water to a thirsty man!