Going Green: Is Bottled Water Really So Pure?

The process and origin of bottling water is far from refreshing.

Water. We call it the Liquid of Life.

We use it for transportation, bathing, cleaning, agriculture, and sustaining our bodies. We also use it for recreation. Sometimes, we simply admire its beauty.

It's almost like an accessory these days, as students are allowed to bring bottled water to class. And offering a guest a bottle of water has all but replaced the traditional cup of coffee once an office fixture during the '60s and '70s.

Tap water has pretty much been relegated to a second-class status when it comes to H2O, and recently I had a couple moments of enlightenment on tap water.

I have a 13-year-old leopard gecko with no eyesight. At one of our vet appointments, I was asked what kind of water I give him for soaking and drinking. Bottled spring water, of course, I responded.

Well, turns out the minerals in tap water are better for him. I learned if I had been soaking him in tap water instead of bottled water, he might not be blind. His skin would have more minerals.

So, if tap water has those beneficial minerals, why have so many people begun to avoid it?

I watched a documentary called Tapped this week. The producers' perspective is that the anti-tap water trend started in the 1970s when Perrier—in its green glass bottles—hit the market.

In the 1980s, plastic bottles enabled Evian to be the favorite, and two major beverage powerhouses noticed a drop in their soda revenues due to water preferences. Coke and Pepsi pitched their water products conjuring up images of health and goodness with words like pure and refreshing.

But what's so dirty and unhealthy about tap water? Probably nothing, especially since the producers say that Dasani and Aquafina products are actually bottled from public water sources, and not fresh springs either.

Nestlé mines water from small towns like Frieburg, Pennsylvania and in 2008 had $3.6 billion in bottled water sales. The documentary says Nestlé harvests groundwater from the springs, pays nothing to get it, and makes all that money, while the residents are paying taxes on the property of their town.

Laws about groundwater procurement vary state to state. The residents of Frieburg are not happy that Nestlé spends about 6 cents per gallon to collect, process and package the water, and then they sell it for about $6 per gallon. 

In 2007, 35 states suffered from drought. One of them was North Carolina, where in Raleigh, Pepsi was bottling municipal water and was selling it back. Even when the town was running out of water for its residents.

Tapped also revealed that the harvesting methods are not ideal for the environment because the equipment emits pollutants. And the water levels need to be protected to sustain balance in nature. Animals, fish and plant life has its lifesource sucked away by corporate water drains, and consumers are expected to pay to get that water back.

Tap water is available to us for a fraction of the cost of bottled water. It's convenient, it tastes fine to me, and it has mineral content that does a body good.

For mobility, we can pour tap water into a stainless steel water bottle and avoid using PET plastic bottles that are filling up the environment when discarded.

Anyway, I can't bring my gecko's eyesight back with tap water treatment. It's too late for that. But I have gained a new perspective on tap water and why sometimes what we covet the most is actually right in front of us.

Conserving water and respecting it is also recognizing when we can leave resources alone. As Mahatma Ghandi said, "There is enough water for human need, but not for human greed."


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