Wednesday, September 3, 2008

leave that bottle on the shelf

Walking in NYC yesterday I was so pleased to see that an organization (whose identity seems to be secret) has started plastering signs around the city condemning bottled-water consumption as wasteful and unnecessary. I think the reasons are quite compelling, especially given the new awareness of our society's oil dependence, and hope that we can see some state or municipal action against it in the near future.


Since 1976 there has been an increase of 1625% in the consumption of bottled water. In 2006 people in the US consumed 8.25 billion gallons of bottled water, or 30 billion actual bottles, a 9.5% increase from the year before.[i]

1. Research shows that bottled water is not purer than tap water. Recently, Pepsi was forced to admit that its bottled water, Aquafina, is actually certified tap water. 60-70% of bottled water is tap water with carbonation, seltzer, etc. In fact, an “estimated 25 to 40 percent of bottled water really is just tap water in a bottle—sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”[ii] According to the National Resources Defense Council, 25-40% of bottled water is tap water that has been treated, but sometimes not.
2. Tap water is regulated by the EPA, and is tested 3 to 4 times DAILY; bottled water is regulated by the FDA, and is tested once a week at the most. A recent Cast Western Reserve report found that 15 of 19 samples of bottled water had bacterial counts almost 2 times as high as Cleveland tap water.[iii]
3. If bottled water is derived in-state, then there may be no regulation. One in five states have no regulations for bottled water “made” in that state; there are no requirements that bottled water has to ban e-coli or fecal matter.
4. More water is used in making the plastic bottle that holds the bottled water than is in the bottle. At Coke’s India plants according to the company’s own report “3.9 liters of water are needed to produce each liter of beverage” because of the need to wash bottles, floors, and equipment in addition to the water used in the drink itself. Coke has 50 plants in India, using “hundreds of thousands of liters of water” per day.[iv]
5. The cost is much more: $1-$1.50 per bottle = $10/gallon for bottled water vs. $.04-$.05 per gallon for tap water. In Los Angeles you get 450 gallons of tap water for the price of one bottle of Evian![v]
6. The environmental impact is great. Bottled water impacts stream and river flows by drawing down water, reducing the water for vegetation, bird and animal needs. Bottled water is connected to global warming, using huge amounts of fossil fuels to manufacture and transport them bottles. The National Resources Defense Council estimates that 4000 tons of carbon dioxide is produced yearly—which is equivalent to the emissions of 700 cars yearly—by importing bottled water alone, not to mention the amount produced by transportation in the US.[vi]
7. It takes 1.5 million barrels of crude oil to create the plastic in one’s year’s supply. That would fuel 100,000 cars a year. Distribution requires the equivalent of 37,800 18 wheel trucks.[vii]
8. Plastic bottles create 2.7 billion pounds of plastic garbage in the US per year![viii]
9. There are cheaper alternatives: a carafe (e.g. Brita) = $.31/gallon; faucet filter = $.34/gallon; undersink filter = $.42/gallon
10. Coke and Pepsi bottled water factories in India (one of the largest sources) draw water from aquifers, depleting the water for farmers in the surrounding areas.

[i] “The High Price of Bottled Water,” The Week, 7 Sept., 2007; Bryan Walsh, “Back to the Tap,” Time, 9 Aug., 2007.

[ii]. Quoted in Cameron Woodworth, “A Clean Drink of Water: Choices and

Responsibilities,” Sound Consumer (August 2006), 4.

[iii]“The High Price of Bottled Water,” The Week, 7 Sept., 2007.

[iv] “Around the Globe,” Seattle Times, 22 Sept. 2006.

[v] “The High Price of Bottled Water,” The Week, 7 Sept. 2007.

[vi]Brian Walsh, “Back to the Tap,” Time, 9 Aug., 2007.

[vii]“The High Price of Bottled Water,” The Week, 7 Sept. 2007; Editorial, “In Praise of Tap Water,” The New York Times, 1 Aug., 2007.

[viii] Bryan Walsh, “Back to the Tap,” Time, 9 Aug., 2007.

Information on Water Conservation:


–The minimum amount of water that the average person needs daily for drinking, cooking, bathing and sanitation is 13 gallons. The average person in the U.S. uses between 65 to 78 gallons of water daily.

–Gallons of water needed to produce:

One pound of potatoes – 100 gallons

One pound of rice – 340 gallons

One pound of chicken – 460 gallons

One pound of beef – 4200 gallons

One 6 inch silicon wafer (computer) – 1892 gallons

One gallon of gasoline – 9 gallons

One average US automobile – 39,000 gallons

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