Putting the lid on bottled water


Courtesy morguefile

By Alisa Bauman

Myth: As long as you recycle the bottle, there are no environmental ramifications to drinking bottled water.

Fact: Bottled water involves the production of the 1.5 million tons of plastic each year. Some of these plastics have been shown to leach toxic chemicals, including hormone disruptors, into the water. Making the bottles needed for U.S. annual bottled water consumption requires more than 1.5 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars for a year. Also, transporting bottled water long distances involves burning even more fossil fuels. And, do you really recycle that bottle? Nine out of 10 bottles end up in landfills or as litter.

Myth: Bottled water is healthier than tap water
Fact: Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which has weaker regulations than the EPA regulations for tap water. When the National Resources Defense Council tested more than 1000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water, they found contamination exceeding allowable limits in at least one sample from about one-third of the brands tested.

An alternative to buying bottled

The vast majority of public water supplies are very safe—a regulatory requirement that bottled water providers don’t have to meet.  If you aren’t completely confident in your community’s supply, your best bet is to filter the water coming from your tap.

Most quality home water filters provide water that is far superior to bottled water, at a fraction of the cost. Want to keep a bottle in hand? Purchase a reusable sports water bottle with a tight-fitting lid, fill it with your filtered tap water, and voila’, safe, clean, environmentally-sound bottled water. And at less than 1 cent per gallon, public water rates are a real bargain, especially when compared to the two to four dollar per gallon cost of bottled. 

There are several types of filters available on the market. For a comparison of various water filter systems, check out www.waterfiltercomparisons.net.

Want to know what’s in the water coming from your tap?

Read the Consumer Confidence Report that your water company is required to send you at least once a year. If you don’t have a report on hand, call your local water company and request a copy. You can also check out The Natural Resource Defense Council’s assessment of drinking water in major cities around the country at http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/uscities/execsum.asp.

For more information about bottled water and related issues, see www.sierraclub.org/CAC/water.

Alisa Bauman is a member of the Lehigh Valley group and has served as both Group chair and newletter editor.

Published March 2006