When bottled water first caught on, I recall thinking that those who spent a lot of money on a commodity that cost pennies when consumed from the tap were naïve (“Evian” backwards).
I’ll admit to drinking bottled water when my only choices are between it and pop. But if I could fill up from the tap, I would. So should many Canadians (I use the word “many” purposely. There are still communities, particularly First Nations communities, that do not have access to potable water. This should enrage every Canadian and force us to demand that everyone have access to safe, public water).
First, tap water in most urban centres is clean and safe (fluoride as harmful is an unsupported claim) and in cities like Toronto, Vancouver and Edmonton, better than most bottled brands. Second, it’s far cheaper to consume than every brand currently on store shelves. Third, it doesn’t create the horrific waste generated by discarded plastic bottles.
Let’s look at the economic and environmental impact of bottled water. About $100 billion a year is spent on bottled water, with annual international consumption at 154 billion litres in 2004; up from 98 billion litres in 1999. Nearly 90% of bottled water bottles consumed in the US are not recycled.Compounding this environmental nightmare, “[p]roducing the bottles for American consumption required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including the energy for transportation; bottling water produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide; it took 3 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water.”
Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coke’s Dasani are reprocessed water from municipal water systems. And if you don’t already feel like a sucker, the FDA said that "Companies that market bottled water as being safer than tap water are defrauding the American public." And I haven’t even touched on the deleterious impact of Bisphenol A leaching into water carried in polycarbonate water bottles.
Bottled water represents yet another massive industry selling us something (we need but shouldn’t have to pay exorbitant prices for) that despoils the environment. Moreover, I have profound concerns with the privatization of a vital resource such as water. We know the Earth is growing short on it and the more it’s controlled by massive corporations and private interests rather than be supplied and monitored by municipalities, the greater the risk of those living in poverty being denied a necessity of life.
On December 3, 2008, the City of Toronto recently voted to ban the sale and distribution of bottled water on all municipal premises. I’m rather pleased that Toronto has become the largest city in the world to see past the marketing scam and environmental horror that is bottled water.
To keep the momentum against bottled water going, UN Water Advisor Maude Barlow is embarking on a 15-city tour of Ontario, starting in Windsor today, to promote public water.