Water, Water Everywhere, But Bottles We Can Spare

by Katy on October 2, 2008 · 8 comments


As gas prices continue their upward climb, many of us are re-examining our set expenditures. Is that deluxe cable TV package really a necessity?

How about that thrice-weekly restaurant habit?

Here’s an easy expense to cut from your budget — bottled water.

There it is, taking up half an aisle in the supermarket. Entire flats of bottled water, sitting on cardboard trays, encased in plastic — water.

How did water become such a packaged and pricey item?

Remember when you just turned on the tap and filled your glass, confident the water was safe?

It’s still safe.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, Americans drank 8.8 billion gallons of packaged water in 2007. This totaled 15 percent of our total liquid intake.

People, people, we’re talking about water! It falls free from the sky.

We pay our taxes to purify it and pipe it to our homes.

We agonize over which faucet to choose for our kitchen remodels.

And then we leave our homes to go buy it?

And, at one cent per gallon, it’s always been the cheapest drink in town.

This is especially illogical when you consider that the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that, “about one-fourth of bottled water is actually bottled tap water.”

The environmental impact of these billions of plastic water bottles is staggering.

Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to create water bottles annually in the U.S. alone.

Yet, just 14 percent of water bottles get recycled. Where are the other 86 percent going?

Want to drink filtered water, without supporting the bottled water industry?

Easy. Install a water filter on your kitchen faucet, or buy an inexpensive water pitcher with a built-in filter for your refrigerator.

For the office, an old fashioned water cooler can replace the fridge full of bottled water. (Just think of all the office gossip you’ll be able to glean.)

Heading out for the day? Take a few seconds to simply fill a couple of reusable bottles with ice water.

Next time you’re about to heft that pallet of bottled water into your grocery cart, ask yourself this — why am I not drinking my own safe, cheap tap water?

Putting the brakes on the bottled water habit will not only save you money, but you can relax knowing your drink of choice is not contributing to a worldwide environmental crisis.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

I originally wrote this article for The Alameda Sun newspaper. Used with permission.

To view my true feelings about tap water, please click here.


{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mrs Green October 2, 2008 at 11:44 pm

You’re right; everything you say I agree with and it makes sense but, but, but…………..I’m still addicted to bottled water.
I HATE the stuff that comes out of our tap – it tastes vile and is so hard it leaves bits in my mouth.
Ewwwwww, I know I must break this one. Perhaps I’ll set myself a ‘by the end of the year’ goal on it.
Thanks for the reminder of my terrible, terrible habit.

**hangs head in shame**


Dan Wood October 3, 2008 at 7:50 am

In some areas the tap water tastes awful. Here in Alameda I can’t distinguish our filtered water from straight tap water, but at my folks’ place in Citrus Heights the tap water tastes nasty. So for these areas, built-in or pitcher-based filters are AWESOME to solve this problem. Culligan, Brita, PUR, etc. are fine. (A google search turned up this interesting website: http://www.waterfiltercomparisons.com/ )

When thinking about the drawbacks of bottled water, also think about the transportation needed to get the bottles and the water from their source to you. Imagine how much fuel is spent and CO2 is produced transporting water from Fiji or France!

And one last rant – let’s give a special shout out to those premium bottled waters that contain … yes, TAP WATER. Most bottled water is not any better than what you’ll get out of your faucet. (I’ve even heard of efforts to regulate bottled water to disclose ‘this contains tap water’!)


Mike October 3, 2008 at 9:41 am

The bad taste in tap water can be the residual chlorine left in it.

Simply leaving it in your refrigerator in an open container for a day will get rid of that chlorine and improve the taste.


Jinger October 3, 2008 at 1:19 pm

I was an Ozarka bottled water addict. I just couldn’t get enough of it. Yet, the empty bottles kept filling my recycling container and I hated lugging the huge case of 24 bottles up to my second floor apartment. So I went cold turkey! I bought a polycarbonate reusable bottle and a Culligan water filter for my faucet. I can now drink tap water that tastes good to me….maybe not quite as good as Ozarka, but good enough!


CaliforniaTeacherGuy October 3, 2008 at 3:52 pm

Most tap water tastes like (pardon me) crap. For many years I lived in rural areas and had my own well–luscious water! Back in the city again, I use a reverse osmosis system to get the nasty taste out. While I don’t like to see all those plastic bottles go into the landfill, I do understand why people don’t drink water straight out of the tap.


CanadianKate October 4, 2008 at 9:00 am

I have to agree that LA area water tastes awful. On our last trip there I was shocked at the flavour. But, filters take care of that after all Dasani is just regular tap water, filtered.

Katy: when you said offices should have water coolers, I pictured the big 18 quart jug cooler. That’s only marginally better than water bottles – best to have a water cooler that is piped into the office water system and filters and cools the water on demand. It uses electricity but saves the jugs (and pollution from the water delivery.)

I’m shopping for a travel water filter since I’m guilty of buying water (gallon jugs only, not small bottles) when I travel. Last fall, I decided not to buy water because I only travel to places where the water is safe. Got sicker than I’ve ever been on a trip, despite being in Copenhagen. I figure it was minor changes in the water that my system couldn’t handle. So I’ve been buying water ever since (and haven’t got ill) except when I’m at my daughter’s where I just refill my water bottle using her water filter. No problems there. A regular full sized Brita system won’t work for me because of luggage restrictions (one 44lb bag for 30 days in Europe) so I need to see if there is something smaller available that is cost effective compared to just buying water while I’m traveling.


Emily October 7, 2008 at 12:36 pm

What about avoiding water bottles and juice packs in school lunches? I purchased my 7 year old a $20 Sigg water bottle and she has faithfully brought it home from school and soccer games for an entire year. I do have my e-mail address on the bottom just in case. But I wonder how much school lunch waste could be avoided if we gave them reusable drink containers?


thepennypincher October 23, 2008 at 11:34 am

Dear CanadianKate,

A cheap option for a very good water filter is simply to buy the type of water filter that would be used by outdoor enthusiasts. Here is an example from MEC: http://www.mec.ca/Products/product_detail.jsp?FOLDER%3C%3Efolder_id=2534374302696689&PRODUCT%3C%3Eprd_id=845524441774551.

They are small, compact and don’t really weigh much (i.e. perfect for traveling). It requires a bit of effort (you have to pump), but you can use such a filter to fill-up reusable bottles.

The filter is good for close to 800 liters and a new filter costs $35. It will be a lot cheaper than buying water and you will be producing a lot less waste in the long run.


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