Part of the reason is simple marketing; in 2006, Pepsi, which owns Aquafina, spent $20 million suggesting that Americans “drink more water.”
But another factor, according to Royte, is the failure of the public sector; the United States may need to invest $390 billion in its failing water infrastructure by 2020. In 42 states, tap water contains at least 10 different pollutants on the same day. Bottled water, however, is no panacea for purity issues; it is also loosely regulated and just as hazardous. Despite the obvious environmental toll of all those plastic water bottles, bottled water consumption is still on the rise in the United States. In 2007, Americans drank nearly 7 percent more bottled water than they did in 2006, according to Beverage Marketing Corporation. Meanwhile:
- In 2007, Americans drank over 29 gallons of bottled water each
- U.S. bottled water reached nearly 9 billion gallons last year
- Americans drink more bottled water than any other beverage except carbonated soft drinks
With these massive amounts of plastic, it’s no wonder that a plastic “stew” that’s twice the size of Texas is swirling through the Pacific Ocean.
Aside from all of this waste, a bottle that holds 1 liter of water requires 5 liters of water in its manufacturing process. Beyond being wasteful, this is simply not an efficient use of limited resources.
The benefit to drinking bottled water, of course, is that drinking clean water free of toxins is essential for good health. But the idea that “pure” water only comes from a bottle is a myth.
Bottled Water Isn’t Always Safer Than Your Tap
Your expensive bottled water may have come from a well in an industrial facility parking lot. In fact, up to 40 percent of bottled water is bottled tap water that may or may not have received additional treatment.
On top of that, the metal antimony has been found in many bottled water brands. One study that looked at 63 brands of bottled water produced in Europe and Canada found concentrations of antimony that were more than 100 times the typical level found in clean groundwater (2 parts per trillion). It also found that the longer a bottle of water sits on a shelf -- in a grocery store or your refrigerator -- the greater the dose of antimony present.
The biggest offenders were packaged in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) containers, which are the bottles typically used for bottled water. It is believed that the amount of antimony leeching from these PET bottles differs based on exposure to sunlight, higher temperatures, and varying pH levels.
The manufacture of these bottles can also release phthalates, which have been found to cause birth defects in animals, into the environment. Not to mention that plastic bottles of all kinds can leach chemicals like BPA into your beverage.
Most municipal tap water -- though generally far from pure -- must also adhere to stricter purity standards than the bottled water industry.
What’s Your Best Option for Clean Water?
Personally I rarely use bottled water. About the only time I do is because of the absurd airline policy that prevents one from bringing on their own bottled water (but it is OK to purchase it in the airport gift shops). I will also use bottled water when traveling. However, when home I rely on reverse osmosis filtered water from my well.
So I STRONGLY recommend that you ditch the plastic water bottle mentality and filter your own water at home using a reverse osmosis filter. This enables you to rely on your own well or municipal source for safe, clean water. If you need to take some with you on the road, store it in a glass jar or bottle. In a few months we should have a newly designed glass water bottle you can carry with you that is protected from breaking by a brightly colored neoprene sleeve.
This way you get the best of both worlds: pure water to hydrate your body, and a clear conscience that you’re helping to protect the environment.