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Why I drink Bottled Water

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Jim from Blueprint For Financial Prosperity writes about how “bottled water is absolutely f’ing ridiculous.” He outlines several very good reasons why bottled water is not worth the cost, environmental impact, or supposed “health benefits.” And I agree with all of Jim’s points. But I still drink bottled water.

Why? Several reasons.

At Home: The town I live in has very hard water. The water is so hard that if you don’t use a water softener, your pipes will clog with calcite deposits in a matter of a few years. This is not a problem Drano can fix. This is a “it’s time to replace your entire plumbing system” type fix.

Water softeners also leave a small amount of sodium in the water which is probably fine for us because we are young and healthy. For those with diabetes or who need to limit their sodium intake, bottled water might be better for drinking.

In my opinion, our water softener changes the taste of the water. Neither my wife nor I like the way the water tastes from the faucet. Yes, we have tried Brita filters and reverse osmosis filters – it still doesn’t taste very good. We buy sodium free drinking water by the gallon at Wal-Mart, where it costs about 64¢ per gallon. We usually buy about 10 gallons at a time so we don’t have to make frequent trips. When we are done we recycle the plastic containers. We do use tap water for cooking purposes.

At Work: The building I work in is well over 50 years old. The pipes are old, and there are occasionally water boiling advisories in the building. I don’t know about you, but if the building managers occasionally shutdown the water faucets and send out messages that water needs to be boiled before consumption, I would prefer not to drink it at all. Several people have gone in together and contracted with a water service which provides 5-gallon bottles of water and a cooler. It costs me $5 per month to pay for this service. This is a cost I gladly pay – as I mentioned, I drink a lot of water.

I drink about four 20 ounce bottles on an average workday. If I were to buy a bottle of water every time I was thirsty, I would pay for my monthly water club fee in one day (bottles cost $1.25 in the vending machines). In my opinion this is an essential cost for me. I clean and reuse plastic water bottles that I have acquired from earlier purchases.

On Trips: I take a bottle of water with me almost every time I get in the car – especially if I know I will be gone for more than an hour or so. I normally reuse plastic water bottles that I have previously purchased. I wash them out everyday and refill them with from the gallon jugs I purchased at Wal-Mart. If I forget a bottle or run out of water on my trip, I will purchase a 20 ounce bottle and eventually add that bottle to my rotation of reused bottles. I recycle bottles as they get too old.

How I minimize the impact of drinking bottled water:

  • Cost: I minimize the cost of drinking bottled water by buying in bulk. A gallon of water from Wal-Mart costs less than a 20 ounce bottle of water from the gas station. Joining a water club at work is another way I save money. I also reuse containers instead of buying new ones.
  • Environmental Impact: I reuse and recycle all the water bottles I use. Yes, I would leave a smaller footprint if I didn’t purchase any bottles to begin with, but as I mentioned, that is not an option for me. Recycling is the next best thing, and I do it almost religiously. I have even taken bottles home with me to recycle if there was no other place to do it. The bottles of water from the water cooler at work are also reused.
  • Health Benefits: For me, I think the health benefits are actually there. In most cases, tap water is perfectly healthy. I grew up drinking it, and continue to drink it whenever I can. But, if a water softener leaves even trace amounts of sodium, then buying sodium free bottled water is probably better for my health. I’m not sure about the quality of the water at my workplace, but at $5 a month, why take the risk?

However… My case may be different from many people. I agree with Jim. Most of the time bottled water is wasteful. It is expensive, uses valuable resources during production, damages the environment by draining local water supplies, produces millions of tons of waste in the form of non-biodegradable plastic bottles, and is probably no more beneficial to your health than tap water.

You have to make your own decisions regarding bottled water. The convenience is great, but realize there are impacts you may not have considered.


Published or updated August 31, 2007.
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