Bob's Links and Rants

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Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Bottled Water: An environmental and social disaster...
as well as being a corporate hoax. According to a fine article in E/The Environmental Magazine, bottled water is generally held to fewer standards than tap water:

"Unlike tap water violations, which are directly enforceable, if a company exceeds bottled water standards, it is not necessarily a violation-they can just say so on the label, and may be insulated from enforcement." Further, while EPA rules specify that no confirmed E. coli or fecal coliform (bacteria that indicate possible contamination by fecal matter) contamination is allowed in tap water, the FDA merely set a minimum level for E. coli and fecal coliform presence in bottled water. Tap water from a surface source must be tested for cryptosporidium, giardia and viruses, unlike bottled water, and must also be disinfected, unlike bottled water. Hoober also notes that food products such as "carbonated water," "soda water" and "seltzer water"-in addition to most flavored waters-are held to even looser standards than "true" bottled water.

Bottled water also requires huge amounts of plastics, which causes environmental problems in both its manufacture and disposal.

One issue that the article doesn't address is the economic threat it poses to municipal water systems and the less-than-wealthy people who rely on them. Because people who have too much disposable income (Americans) are willing to spend three times as much per gallon for bottled water as they do for gasoline, bottled-water corporations like Coke and Pepsi are willing to pump springs and aquifers dry to meet the demand. Since the wealthy are getting their water in bottles, they lose interest in the municipal systems and become unwilling to pay for safe and reliable public water. This is a major concern in Chiapas, Mexico (where I visited last spring). Companies like Coca-Cola have their greedy little eyes focused on the fresh water of Chiapas, which is some 30% of all fresh water in Mexico. By bottling this water up and shipping it to other parts of the country and world that are able to pay for it, they threaten a key requirement for survival of the local population.

So, PLEASE don't buy any bottled water! (Thanks again to Michelle for the link.)