Back in August of 2009, Yian Mui of the Washington Post reported that “sales of bottled water have fallen for the first time in at least five years.” Its meteoric rise to popularity was astonishing: sales of bottled water “swelled 59 percent to $5.1 billion between 2003 to 2008, making it one of the fastest growing beverages.”
So, economically, if you owned shares in a company that sold bottled water, you probably received a tidy return on your investment.
But was it worth it?
Water corporations privatize water supplies; these private utilities “charge an average of 30% more for water than public utilities,” according to Food and Water Watch.
Think you’re not affected by that? The National Association of Water Companies (NAWC), an organization that “represents all aspects of the private water service industry,” reports that “Every day nearly 73 million Americans – almost one in four — receive water service from a privately owned water utility or a municipal utility operating under a public-private partnership.” The organization’s Web site also states that “private water companies own nearly 16 percent of the nation’s community water systems.”
Are you paying more for a shower because your water utility has been privatized? Are privatized utilities more concerned about the safety of your water or the payoffs to their shareholders? Do you think that might be worth looking into?
Let’s table your tap for a moment — your tap being a source of cheap water, especially when you tote it with you in a reusable bottle — and focus more closely at the delivery of bottled-water products. According to Food and Water Watch, “bottled water production and transport uses as much as 2,000 times more energy than it takes to produce tap water.” Additionally, it takes “more than 17 million barrels of oil — enough to fuel 1 million cars for a year” to produce the plastic water bottles sold annually in the United States.
Looking for some even more horrifying statistics? “Nearly 86% of all empty plastic bottles end up in our landfills rivers, or oceans,” according to Food and Water Watch.
You’ve probably heard of the floating continent of plastic debris in the Pacific Ocean — here is a first-hand account from Transpac sailor Charles Moore, who says “estimating the debris at half a pound for every hundred square meters of sea surface… the weight of the debris was about 3 million tons, comparable to a year’s deposition at Puente Hills, Los Angeles’s largest landfill.” And that was 12 years ago, in 1998. Moore’s report, which was published in Natural History v.112, n.9, November 2003, includes a heartbreaking photo of a decomposed Laysan albatross: bottle caps and other plastic objects are visible in its stomach chamber.
Yes, bottled water is convenient. But at what cost? Are the economics of convenience more compelling than the economics of enough fuel for a million cars each year, of trashed oceans, of landfills overflowing with plastics that will never biodegrade, and oceans filled with plastic polymers that “are sponges for DDT, PCBs, and other oily pollutants”?
Compare the convenience aspect of bottled water with the Food and Water Watch report that pre-packaged water costs “$.89 to $8.26 per gallon, while tap water costs $.002 per gallon.”
From an economic standpoint, it’s hard to argue with that kind of cost savings. So, do you want to save money, resources, AND the environment? Stop buying bottled water. Today.
And, if you put your ear to it, you can almost hear the Pacific Ocean marine life, thanking you for your wise choice.