Last year Americans spent over $15 billion dollars on bottled water, up from $11 billion in 2006. Much of that is due to clever advertising which leads people to believe that bottled water is a healthier and better option than tap water. However, that is not always the case. In fact, most bottled water sold in the US is nothing more than repackaged tap water, bottled in an ergonomic container with a colorful label slapped on it. To put it simply, you are often paying for an image.
How much are you really paying for tap water?
Both Pepsi and Coke acknowledge that Aquafina and Dasani are tap water. Just read the label. An average 20oz. bottle of water will cost you around $1.39 at a convenience store, or over $8.50 per gallon. Many people will pay the $1.39 without thinking twice. But how much of a markup is that really? Let’s look at an example.
“You can buy a half-liter Evian for $1.35 — 17 ounces of water imported from France for pocket change. That water seems cheap, but only because we aren’t paying attention.
In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from Yosemite National Park. It’s so good the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, five months and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.” MSN.
Let’s do some quick math. 10 years, five months and 21 days is 3,825 days. That equates to almost 4,000 bottles for the price of one. That is a HUGE markup! Sure, there are many factors to consider, such as transportation, bottling, marketing costs, and a cut of the sale price to the vendor and distributor. But who is really paying for that – the manufacturer or the consumer?
Environmental impacts of bottled water
Americans throw away 30 million water bottles every day. That’s 11 billion bottles per year! The majority of plastic bottles go straight in the trash bin, even though they are recyclable. In addition to crowding our landfills, bottled water taxes local water supplies by taking water from municipal sources where it is needed, only to ship it across the country.
Bottled water requires massive amounts of raw materials to ship the final product, including plastic for the bottles, paper for labels, cardboard and plastic for cases, shipping crates, plastic shrink wrap etc. The finished product is extremely heavy and transporting water requires large quantities of fuel. Don’t forget to add fuel emissions to the list of environmental impacts.
Bottled water is not evil
While there are many reasons not to drink bottled water – cost and environmental impact being very good reasons – bottled water is not bad. There are many countries where bottled water is the only reliable source of safe drinking water. In the US, bottled water is a popular drink at sporting events, movies, and other locations where you cannot bring in your own refreshments.
But there are many alternatives that most people can and should embrace to diminish the impact bottled water has on their pocket book, and our earth. The biggest impact one can have is to drink less bottled water.
Use Reusable Water Bottles to Save Money and the Environment
The best thing you can do is limit the number of plastic and glass water bottles you use. My wife and I purchased reusable water bottles that we take with us when we leave home, preventing further waste. In addition to keeping the landfills cleaner, there are other benefits to reusable water bottles. Many plastic bottles leach chemicals into the water, which over time, can affect your health. There are many different safe reusable water bottle options.
One example is Klean Kanteen reusable water bottles, which is the brand of reusable water bottle my wife and I purchased. We have been very happy with the switch. I fill mine from the gallon of water in our fridge every morning before work, then refill it throughout the day with tap water from work. Sometimes I bring it home full and leave it in the fridge overnight so I can bring it back to work the next day. I’m not worried about the $.10 I might save by doing this, but rather the environmental impacts of purchasing fewer bottles of water.
Note: This may seem contradictory to this article, but my wife and I buy bottled water for drinking in our home. The water where we live is extremely hard and requires the use of a water softener to prevent calcification from forming in the pipes, which would eventually clog the pipes beyond repair. Our softened water does not taste as good as non-softened water and contains sodium left over from the softening process. We use softened water for cooking, but we buy bottled water for drinking. We do this as responsibly as possible and buy it in large recyclable containers, which we recycle weekly. We have looked into a reverse osmosis water filtration system for our drinking water needs, which uses a different filtration process than regular water softeners and removes sodium from the water, making it a healthier alternative for us.
I’ll leave you with this (note: this video some language not suitable for a workplace environment):
More articles about bottled water:
- Bottled Water: A River of Money.
- Tapped Out: The True Cost of Bottled Water.
- 6 Things More Expensive Because of Marketing.
- Message in a Bottle: Despite the Hype, Bottled Water is Neither CLEANER nor GREENER Than Tap Water.