Why on Earth Are We Drinking Bottled Water?

by Katy on April 15, 2009 · 26 comments


When the issue of frugality vs. sustainability arises, the one glaringly obvious contradiction for me is bottled water.

I simply do not understand why anyone would pay money to drink water that’s been shipped from thousands of miles away, and is not subject to the important safety standards of municipal tap water. Not to mention that the environmental consequences of manufacturing and dealing with the bottles could be completely avoided.

Hard on the wallet and bad for our planet? 

I beg to differ.

To have clean and safe drinking water available at the turn of a handle is not an option to a large percentage of our planet’s population. Yet we turn our noses up at lowly tap water.

The video above shows a excerpt from Tapped, The Movie which looks to be an enlightening, yet entertaining film about the many, many issues that surround the bottled water industry.

So start making it a habit to carry a re-usable water bottle with you and just say no to bottled water.

Here are two columns I had previously published about bottled water.

Are you still buying bottled water, or are you a die-hard Sigg bottle fan? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

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

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Rebecca April 15, 2009 at 5:03 pm

When I’m living at the university I attend and have access to tap water from a municipal source, I don’t buy bottled water, but when I go home to visit my parents, we do. Our well water is technically potable and fine for washing, but it tastes so foul that we need to purchase water for drinking and certain kinds of cooking. We buy water in large containers and refill the containers at a dispenser in the grocery store.

(No, Brita and like filters don’t help. We’ve tried them. We really don’t know why they don’t work because everyone swears up, down, and sideways that they should work, but they don’t.)

We’re aware there are environmental issues surrounding bottled water, but it’s either buy water in plastic containers and reuse the containers as many times as possible, or don’t drink water, tea, or coffee when we’re home. At that point, it becomes something rather like a health issue (well, maybe not the coffee, unless you can successfully argue it’s good for our mental health!), and we decided our best option was to buy the bottled water and try to reuse or recycle the containers.


Kate April 15, 2009 at 5:54 pm

My tap water tastes great and I love my Sigg bottles. Die-hard? Yeah, I guess so. I never buy bottled water.


Kate April 15, 2009 at 5:59 pm

Save the Bay as a great video that helps demonstrate the problem: http://www.youtube.com/user/BaySaver


Meg from FruWiki April 15, 2009 at 6:34 pm

I grew up with sulfur well water that was NASTY! It’s supposedly not bad for you, but I’m not sure there weren’t other bad things in the water.

Leaving it uncovered in the fridge helped some, but it took a while and there was never room in the fridge or it picked up smells or there was other stuff that didn’t evaporate, etc. We didn’t buy bottled water much, though. I lived off of sweet tea which masked the taste. And when we did buy bottled water I thought it was fabulous.

Then I moved and tap water was better, but not by much because of all the chlorine. We tried a filtered pitcher and it still didn’t help. So, again with the sweet tea and bottled water.

Finally, I moved to our current location and the tap is fine and I regularly fill up my Klean Kanteen — though I still drink a lot of tea (mostly unsweet now, though).


Greg April 15, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Our tap water here is pretty bad tasting and is sometimes brown, but up the street there’s one of those machines in the supermarket where you can fill a 5-gallon jug for $2.99 with reverse-osmosis water. This water is actually the same tap water I’m using at home 1/2 mile away, but the machine removes all the bad stuff. (Unfortunately it also removes the good minerals, but you can’t have everything.)

I use this water for all of my tea and coffee and it tastes great. The bottles I use are originally from another store where I bought them full. When I bought them I made sure the bottles were new looking so I could refill them for years. So far so good. Still using the bottles I bought 3 years ago!


Emily April 15, 2009 at 7:12 pm

We are a die-hard Sigg family. The second-grader takes hers to school every day. We take them on outings, smuggle them into basketball games (empty, of course, but we fill them at the water fountains), use them for hikes, soccer practice, etc…. I love the clip on mine so I can clip it to my purse strap.

Yes, they are expensive. But we’ve had ours for 2 years and haven’t lost one yet (knock on wood….).


Emily April 15, 2009 at 7:14 pm

I forgot to mention the reason we got the Siggs. My daughter was taking a re-useable plastic bottle in her lunch. I borrowed it for a hike one day and was horrified at how ‘plastic-y’ the water tasted after 1 hour in the bottle. Something was leaching into the water. I’m not sure if Siggs are the best answer, but they sure are better than plastic.


Julia April 15, 2009 at 7:30 pm

We gave up bottled water a few years ago. My son started using his Sigg bottle in kindergarten and the other kids thought it was cool. My husband is a retail buyer and he was able to bring them into his store and they sold a lot, until Sigg decided his store wasn’t fancy enough (getting too big for their britches??) to carry them any more. Luckily, he was able to replace them with another brand of stainless steel bottles. The last time I bought bottled water was a year ago for my son’s birthday party at an outdoor facility (we don’t drink soda and I didn’t want to serve juice boxes) and I saved all the bottles and recycled them at home. Recently, I found a few of the bottles in the car where I had apparently put them for emergency use. (We almost always take a Sigg or similar per person for each trip, unless the trip is truly short.) The expiration date was coming soon, so I decided to drink one. It tasted so gross, the plastic taste was so strong, that I only drank a sip and decided to save it to water the plants instead of me. Yikes. I can’t believe I used to drink bottled water in the old days! My husband and I always laugh that it’s too late for us (we grew up in the 1970’s and ate too many Twinkies and candy with red dye #40 etc.) but at least our son’s body will not be sullied as much as ours were!


Stephanie April 15, 2009 at 8:03 pm

Thank you Katy for putting this on your site!! I put it up on your facebook page yesterday, and was hoping people would watch!! It was a moving video, I showed some people in my family. It is interesting to think about not only are plastic bottles bad after they are made, but while they are being made as well, people that live around these plants have health problems as well!! So, just think about what it is doing to our earth!


Andy April 15, 2009 at 8:26 pm

Thankfully I never got into bottled water. I used Nalgenes for several years, but had stopped using them regularly a few years ago also.

I’m not a big fan of paying $10-15 for a bottle, so I just have a glass jar at work. I often just use cupped hands at sinks if I need water. Gets the job done and it’s freeeee


Sierra April 15, 2009 at 9:24 pm

I’ve never understood the bottled water thing. I know a few people who swear by it, but I could never bring myself to pay for little bottles of water, even if the environmental ramifications were less disastrous.


Stephanie April 15, 2009 at 9:53 pm

I have some family members who like to use canning jars, with the lids. My uncle is a teacher, and in highschool I can remember him bringing one to class everyday.


S.R. April 16, 2009 at 3:39 am

Hi thank you for this enlightening post and the video trailer. Im wondering do you think the Pur pitchers are just as bad. You do have to throw away the filter after a few months and it marinates in the plastic.


ToilingAnt April 16, 2009 at 5:45 am

I haven’t taken the Sigg plunge, but we did give everyone Nalgenes (that I’d scored for $2.50 each!) for Christmas, just to encourage our family to stop the bottled water habit.


Stephanie April 16, 2009 at 7:32 am

I think if it was me, I would run the water through the PUR filter then store it in a glass container. You can find some glass pitchers with lids on them at Amazon.com. I think I also found some at Target the other day while looking for glass canisters. We have really really really good well-water, I feel so lucky, everytime I have lived in a city I have had to leave a pitcher of water out on the counter all night to let the chlorine evaporate, then put it in the fridge, or ad ice. Leaving it at room temp seems to work better for letting the chemicals evaporate. It used to give me horrible headaches!


Mari April 16, 2009 at 8:49 am

I never got into buying bottled water. The tap water we have tastes alright. I am more of a coffee and tea drinker. At work I have my own re-usable bottle for my water. The place were I work has a filter water and ice machine. There water taste really good.


Barb April 16, 2009 at 10:00 am

We’ve completely given up bottled water in my house, for the environmental reasons that Katy discusses so eloquently. Our tap water is clean and clear, no reason not to drink it. Except I don’t like the taste…

My issue, flat out, is taste. If I have my favorite bottled water (in case you’re wondering, it’s “Poland Spring”), I would easily drink 2-3 liters a day. (And I haven’t done that in over 2 years, because we’ve given it up altogether.) But if it’s tap water, I will only drink about half a cup. I’ll pour it for myself, but I don’t actually drink it because I don’t like it.

For health reasons, my doctor wants me to drink at least 2 liters a day. Is it better to drink bottled water or tap water that is filled with powdery sugary chemicals to mask the taste?

So for now, I’m struggling to drink 2 liters a day of tea (sweetened with splenda) and lemonade (sweetened with sugar), because I refuse to buy bottled water. But I wish I could…


Catherine April 16, 2009 at 12:09 pm

I would gladly drink tap water if it did not have poisonous flouride in it. Where I live the water is flouridated. No choice. Why should I be forced to drink flouride? And it IS poison, and it DOESN’T prevent cavities. I’m just sayin’: http://tinyurl.com/yse3oy


Angela April 16, 2009 at 3:07 pm

I am ashamed to say that I fell for the bottled water scam hook, line, and sinker after viewing tons of news stories about how nasty the water in Los Angeles is, where we live. I later learned that our tap water is fine, and it doesn’t even taste that bad. It’s fine to drink with a filter.

We’ve since mended our ways, but I sometimes still cringe at the thousands of plastic bottles I added to the problem.

We now use Kleen Kanteen bottles, although I still also use a Nalgene I don’t want to toss.


sybil April 16, 2009 at 8:23 pm

My hairdresser told me today that her 6-yr-old daughter had FIVE cavities (and the pediatric dentist wants to put in two crowns – on baby teeth!). She called her regular dentist and his first question was, “Does she drink bottled water?” Turns out, she’s been drinking nothing but bottled water all her life and hasn’t been getting the fluoride…..thus the cavities…….


Nancy Perez April 19, 2009 at 5:55 pm

I live in Los Angeles, and the water tastes pretty nasty in our area. We have been using a distiller for the last several years and we drip the distilled water through charcoal (we buy aquarium charcoal for that purpose). The charcoal is supposed to filter out any impurities that might be caught in the condensed steam. I recommend it. The water tastes great. Of course we are using electricity to run the distiller, so I can’t say it is a very ecological practice.


James April 19, 2009 at 8:36 pm

I live here in Japan and can tell you straight out that NOT putting Flouride into the water leads to a nation of people with HORRENDOUS teeth. Most people here clean their teeth after every meal and it still doesnt help.

There is obviously a risk when you introduce *any* kind of chemical or medicine into the system. I believe in the case of Flouride the benefits outweigh the risks though – some of the “evidence” on that website relates to studies in the 1940’s!

Catherine: I assume you also don’t take any kind of government sanctioned medicine either? Or drink anything other than the purest mountain spring water, what with all those preservatives added to everything nowadays? You only eat home grown food too?


ReneVague3 April 29, 2009 at 10:32 am

At my parents’ house, the well water is clean and tasty so I drank that growing up. Now I drink bottled spring water because the city water where I live is heavily chlorinated. Brita and the like don’t filter out the taste, so until we can find an affordable filtration system to remove it, I will continue to buy it.

I don’t understand all the hate against bottled water. Yes, I understand the environmental implications of over-using it, but it serves a valuable purpose, especially during hurricane season.


thenonconsumeradvocate April 29, 2009 at 10:41 am


I have no problem with drinking bottled water as associated with hurricanes. And it does sound like the water where you live is pretty awful. (I’m aware that I’m lucky to live in an area with great drinking water.)

Have you looked into delivery of large water bottles, like an office water cooler? This would cut down on individual water bottles and might even cost less in the long run.

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


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