Drinking water, which was once viewed as simply a human necessity, has transformed into a very profitable commodity. With a cute advertisement and a colorful label, bottled water companies convince shoppers to purchase something that, in a developed country, can easily be found almost anywhere for free.
But bottled water isn’t just a waste of money; it’s a waste of resources too, pumping out plastic pollutants and, in some cases, stealing water from needy 3rd-world countries. Studies have shown that, despite their labels’ boasts of being purified and mineral-enriched, bottled water isn’t that healthy or pure – in fact, it may be less healthy than regular tap water, with chemical additives, bacteria, and even fertilizer runoff.
On average, bottled water costs about $3.79 per gallon – close to the average cost of gasoline. Municipal water, meanwhile, costs less than one cent per gallon. At a time when people are choosing soda, energy drinks, and other unnatural alternatives in greater numbers, it may seem refreshing to know that bottled water still takes a big cut of the beverage market. But with water being so easily and cheaply available, it’s hardly fair to expect health-conscious consumers to pay a 2000% mark-up on a product which they use every day.
What’s so special about bottled water to justify such a massive price hike? Once the cost of shipping, advertising, and employee salaries is taken out of the equation, bottled water companies still need to pay for packaging. According to American Water, although plastic water bottles are recyclable, 38 billion of them are thrown out each year – that’s 85% of all the plastic water bottles in the US, more than even the most committed recycling program can handle.
These bottles take up to 1000 years to biodegrade, are an unattractive nuisance, and could be potentially harmful to wildlife. That’s not to mention the fact that roughly 54 million barrels of oil are used every year to manufacture these bottles – oil which you surely would rather have had in your car.
So, is bottled water any safer than tap? Municipal drinking water is subject to a number of safety standards – like minimum levels of poisons and carcinogens – that are enforced by the EPA; the water is tested for up to 100 different contaminants and is regularly sent for lab analysis.