Who is Right and Who is Wrong in the Bottled Water vs Tap Water Debate

Yesterday I had a conversation with a friend about my New Years Resolution to be a little more green this year and she emailed me later in the day to tell me that she has decided not to buy bottled water anymore. Her husband had been telling her to stop buying it already and our conversation gave her the little push she needed to make the decision.

That got me thinking about the debate – bottled water vs tap water and which is better.

I don’t buy bottled water for a lot of reasons, but I know a lot of people who do. I’ve seen Real Estate Agents at open houses who give out those mini bottles of water with their label on it. There are some things that make me cringe and that is one of them. I just can’t imagine all the energy that would go into putting that amount of water into a plastic bottle.

Do I ever drink bottled water? I won’t say that I don’t, I will sometimes if it is offered to me and tap water is not an option. If I’m at a clients home and they offer me water I will always decline the bottled water for tap water. It’s surprising how many people will say ” are you sure, I have bottled water” as if it’s somehow better.

My reasons for not buying bottled water are more about the waste issue and less about the safety of the water. I won’t get too deep into which is the safer option, both are regulated by the government, bottled water by the federal government – Health Canada, which regulates all of the food and drugs in this country, and tap water by your local municipality.
If I lived in a small town I might have more concerns about tap water but I still wouldn’t buy bottled water, I would use a filtration system.
The safety issue with bottled water, to me, has more to do with the plastic and bacteria. Bacteria can and does contaminate the bottle and the cap, so you shouldn’t reuse the bottles and you need to store the water correctly. It needs to be stored in a cool, dark area, in most stores this is definitely not the case, for obvious reasons it is keep out in the open so people will see it. Even if you use a re-usable water bottle, you need to wash it for the same reasons, I used to think, I only used it for water, I can just rinse it and re-use it but that’s not true, water can and does have bacteria, I don’t wash a re-usable water bottle every time I use it like I would if I had juice in it but it does need to be washed frequently because bacteria can build up. So both being equal, I would use the re-usable option because I can control how it is kept clean, I have absolutely no control over how water is stored, or how old it is, in a store.

We complain about the cost of gas, yet people will spend $3 to $5 per litre (based on a 500 ml bottle) for drinking water that is readily accessible from our tap for pennies, that doesn’t make much sense to me.
With regards to the waste issue, although the bottles can be recycled how many really are recycled as opposed to being thrown in the garbage? Even if they are recycled, that’s still not the best option. People throw them out for the same reasons they drink bottled water in the first place, convenience. If you finish a bottle of water and the first thing you see to rid yourself of that bottle is a garbage can, guess what, that’s where it’s going. If you won’t carry a re-usable bottle with you, you certainly won’t carry a plastic bottle around until you can recycle it. I spend a lot of time at soccer pitches in the summer with my daughter and I can’t tell you how many times there are garbage containers overflowing with discarded plastic water bottles, usually mixed in with Tim Horton’s cups, but that’s another blog post altogether. Not to mention all of the bottles that are left at the field after people leave.

All of those bottles are going to the local landfill site. That is truly a sad situation. If you use bottled water now, even if you cut down by 50% imagine how much less waste we would have in our landfills?
Taste – ok, I know there are people out there who are going to say that they don’t like the taste of tap water, I don’t see a difference, in fact, some bottled water tastes like swamp water to me, especially at room temperature, but I am not going to tell you what you like and don’t like. If you don’t like the taste there are so many options out there that are still better than bottled water. A Brita water filter can do wonders for taste, try that, they are relatively inexpensive and easy to use. I’ve seen a few re-usable water bottles that have their own little filter in them for those on the go, a great option for the gym or when you need to refill it outside your home.  As for convenience, this really shouldn’t even be an issue, you can’t tell me it’s more convenient to have to find a store, park, walk in and pay for a bottle of water than it is to just bring a re-usable one from home.

Lets talk about the whole transportation idea of getting that one bottle of water to you. Somewhere in the world, someone has to get the water in the bottle. Depending on where that is, you really have no idea of what is in that plastic, and you really don’t know where that water came from. Then that bottle of water is somehow transported here to Canada, perhaps a ship or a plane? Then it is trucked to the store where it will be sold. Imagine all that energy that needs to go into that whole process?

That itself is enough reason for me not to buy bottled water.

That might not be enough reason for you so here’s another one, how many people are obsessed with germs, you see people who won’t touch a tap, pull out their hand sanitizer every time they touch something or won’t shake hands with anyone because they don’t want to get any ‘germs’ on them but they are more than willing to drink out of a bottle that could be full of bacteria?? Go figure.

For me, there really is no debate on this issue, there is not one good reason to drink bottled water.

2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Cindy McDonald said,

    Our water problems are a drop in the bucket compared to developing countries. Multinational companies are taking over the water supplies in underdeveloped countries and selling it to poor people who can’t even afford it. Shouldn’t clean water be a basic human right? Here in North America issues are growing as big companies like Nestle steal water from it’s natural ground springs and bottle it and sell it back to us. And polluting the natural environment, ruining rural farmlands in Michigan as they “mine,” bottle, and ship something that we should be getting for free out of rivers, streams, lakes. What gives them the right to do this? The best video to see on this is FLOW. I think I might have it if you want to see it Sandy.

    OH!! And don’t even get me started on the stupidity of peeing in our drinking water. Here we are with a resource that is NOT renewing — it’s running out on the planet. I have a good book called THE HUMANURE HANDBOOK that tells how many gallons of clean water a day per person in North America is FLUSHED away (can’t recall but it’s mind-bending). And it tells of all the chemicals, and infrastructure and machinery that is required to clean that water and pump it back to us. (Some of those chemicals are never completely cleaned out of the water either.) Talk about WASTE!!! We need to find a better way to “go” and it’s starting to happen.

    But I agree with you on what you mentioned in the OIL blog. The best place to start some of these new inventions is in NEW CONSTRUCTION. Because there are many innovations that can be built in to the house (composting toilets for one). How to further that process? Is it cost effective for the builders? What will motivate them to look for more sustainable ways of building? Does it have to be consumer driven? Because a lot of people don’t know what innovations are possible. And will they pay a little extra for sustainable features? It all comes down to money most of the time.

    There’s a mall near Boston where the toilets use no water at all (my brother told me).

    ciao for now…

  2. 2

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