The Environmental Cost of Bottled Water

In 2006 Americans spent over 10.8 billion dollars on bottled water What was that money really spent on? What is the environmental impact of billions of dollars of bottled water? Does bottled water offer any real benefits other than convenience?

Types of Bottled Water

Bottled water comes in a variety of types. Bottled waters are grouped into types by the their water source.

  • Artesian – Artesian water comes from confined aquifers.
  • Mineral – Mineral water comes from geologically and physically protected underground water sources. To be considered mineral water the water must contain at least 250 parts per million of total dissolved solids.
  • Spring – Spring water comes from underground formations from which water flows naturally.
  • Purified – Purified water is filtered municipal water or tap water Purified water can be filtered in a variety of ways such as distillation, de-ionization or reverse osmosis.

While bottled water may seem superior to tap water consider this fact – if you are drinking Aquafini or Dasani water then you are drinking filtered tap water

Is Bottled Water Safer?

According to a 1999 study conducted by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), bottled water in the United States was “not necessarily safer or cleaner than tap water ” To come to this conclusion the NRDC tested over 1,000 bottles of 103 different brands of bottled water The NRDC continued to state that about a quarter of brands tested had contaminants and “violated strict applicable state [California] limits for bottled water “

While our municipal water is subject to what Food & Water Watch call “rigorous testing,” over 100 or more tests are completed each and every month. In comparison bottling plants, considered low risk (by some), are inspected less than once per year.

Understanding the Environmental Cost of Bottled Water

According to SIGG, “Over 100 million plastic water bottles are dumped into America’s landfills — ever day!” Considering this fact landfill waste is an obvious concern. Sadly it isn’t the only one.

Exploitation of Water Supplies

We live in a world with diminishing resources. Water is precious commodity. As we consume rare artesian and mineral waters from developing countries we are overtaxing their water resources. Is it fair to bottle the natural resources of developing countries at the expense of their indigenous residents?

The Cost of Production and Transportation

According to Ling Li of Food & Water Watch, “the production of bottled water the bottling, and the packaging all require energy, so basically they use gas and oil. And then when you ship bottled water you consume a lot of gas and create carbon dioxide emissions.” Should we pay for bottled water when we already pay for a municipal water infrastructure?

Filling our Landfills

By throwing over 100 million plastic water bottles as a nation into the trash each day, we are filling our landfills. By years end, we will throwaway 2 million tons of plastic bottle waste. While more and more cities introduce recycling plans, plastic recycling is on the decline. Last year we recycled only 23% of our plastic bottles.

Convenience at a Price

However convenient bottled water is, we must all understand the cost of that convenience. This cost isn’t only environmental, it is also financial. The NRDC estimates that bottled water costs between 240-10,000 times as much as tap water

As a nation we need end our love affair with bottled water Once we understand the environmental cost of bottled water we can ask ourselves an important questions – Why do we chose to pay 240-10,000 times more than tap water for bottled water a convenience product, that destroys our environment?

Michael Ortiz

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