The Politics of Bottled Water

The little things are the big things. The things that are woven into the fabric of our everyday life are so tightly that we don’t even notice that they’re there. Take water for instance. You need it. Based on the fact that you’re made up of 50-75% water.

I remember when bottled water was looked upon as some type of snooty thing for rich snobs. Today, it’s utterly commonplace for people to drink bottled water, to the point where people react in some surprise when you deign to drink tap water.

This is utterly foolish for a number of reasons. It’s hard to overstate the abhorrence of the unnecessary waste produced by delivering a good that already has infrastructure in place to deliver it right to our houses: plumbing. Also, the notion that bottled water is somehow safer than tap water is ridiculous. Most bottled water comes from municipal sources. Some of it has even been filtered. I’m not even going to get into the fear-producing marketing propaganda angle of this, but it’s oh-so-tempting.

And even if the water in your locale happens to be marginally unsafe, you are making a political move the moment you go to buy bottled water. You are saying, in effect, that you are not going to hold your governmental authorities responsible for the service that they are required to fulfill. It might not matter for you, since you can afford to buy water, but you are not the only person in the world, much less in your community.

It is the poor who will suffer as we continue to not pay attention to the quality of municipal tap water. They will get continually lesser quality tap water as the middle and upper class citizens opt out of caring about the water coming out of their taps, preferring to invest their money in the unsustainable practice of buying bottled water.

And this is completely ignoring the global crisis of inadequate supplies of clean drinking water…

For more info, see Think Outside the Bottle, an advocacy group who appear to have some relatively solid research going on.

8 responses to “The Politics of Bottled Water”

  1. Amen! I’ve been frustrated and concerned with and about this issue for a little over a year now. One aspect that you failed to mention was the ridiculous amount of petroleum that goes into making all the bottles.

  2. WTM: You’re quite right about the petroleum absolutely wasted in this endeavor. And then there’s the petroleum required to ferry the bottles to market…

  3. yes, but they have never tasted the water in St. Stephen! it’s green! I won’t even rinse my pasta with it.

    I’m with you Matt – where do we start getting things going here? Keith talked to the guys repairing the water main over by the Kent store and he said that the one he was working on was over 100 years old, and that was the “new” one!

    Halifax just stopped dumping it’s raw sewage into the ocean a couple years ago – is there really hope that we can get this on the agenda around here?

  4. I’ve always wanted to do a survey in St. Stephen going around and asking who drinks bottled water and who drinks from the tap. I bet most people buy bottled water. In a place like St. Stephen the situation is a bit different because it is questionable whether the water is even really safe to drink.

  5. Heidi: You’re right, St. Stephen’s water is gross, and our infrastructure is in pretty bad shape. As to lobbying the town to improve things, we won’t know until we try. We certainly will get nowhere if we give up and simply buy bottled water. If I was planning to stay here, this would be high on my concerns list.

    Ry: I think that most people here buy bottled water, but a survey would be interesting AND a terrific way to raise awareness. I also would like to see some research as to whether the popular perception here that the water is unsafe is true or false. I know that it tastes awful, but does that make it unsafe or merely in need of better mineral filtration?

  6. It’s like drinking out of a hose – nasty stuff!

    I am not sure what the problem is, but I can’t imagine that it’s not tested for safety regularly??? I just know that we all felt horrible drinking it (could have been psychological, could have been medical!?!?) :)

    If you find others for the cause I’m in.

  7. My wife works in water resource management, and although I can’t remember the exact details, she says that the safety checks on bottled water occur much less frequently than they do for tap water sources. All that’s to say is that your chance of drinking harmful bacteria and toxins in bottled water is significantly greater than it is in tap water.

  8. Chris: Thanks for sharing that disturbing information. So much for the marketing propaganda of “safer.”

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