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The True Price of Fiji Water

Your small bottle of Fiji water may not cost much to you, but it does for the people of Fiji and its environment.
 
 
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The small island nation of Fiji with its population of about 150,000 -- is now controlled by a military regime that took control via the 2006 Fijian coup d'état. With such an unstable government -- people suffer while some industries prosper. One of these prospering companies is Fiji Water. Water imported into the US from the small island nation of Fiji is ranked number 2 in bottled waters. France, of course, is number 1.

Today, about one-third of Fiji's people lack access to clean drinking water, leading to incidents of typhoid and other water-related diseases.

The irony of these statistics is that Fiji Water exported about 130 million liters of Fiji water in the past year. To present a "green face" to the world -- Fiji Water returns a token amount of money to bring clean water to certain areas of Fiji. However, according to a recent BBC investigation, the Fiji capital of Suva has an undependable water system with failing infrastructure.

And, let's not overlook the "transnational" power Fiji Water wields over the relatively powerless rulers of Fiji.

In early July of 2008, the Fijian government proposed a tax on bottled water in order to generate income and to help improve and conserve the island's water resources. In a span of a couple of weeks -- the government had to abort the bottled water tax because of overt economic threats by the bottled water lobby.

The threats occurred when bottling companies shut down factories -- stating that they would not operate under such a tax. This bottled water protest would have cost Fiji up to $3 million in lost export revenues a week. With such a big gun to their heads -- the Fijian government quickly dropped their proposed tax.

However, there is one vital aspect of this Fijian water debacle that rarely receives mention. And, that is the long-term environmental consequence of taking precious water and putting it inside plastic bottles.

Freshwater on volcanic islands is rare due to the porous soils and rocks that make up such islands. Therefore, any freshwater that is found on a volcanic island is valuable because it supports tropical ecosystems and usually flows out into the ocean rather quickly. Freshwater is the most precious liquid on Earth. Through the alchemical miracle of our hydrologic cycle -- freshwater is naturally manufactured by nature and temporarily stored on land. And, only a small fraction of freshwater, about one-hundredth of one-percent, is readily available for human use.

The key to the success and sustenance of all life is the energetic flow of water through our biosphere. When precious freshwater flows from land and mixes with our world's saltwater -- there is a magical explosion of life along the so-called "coastal zone." This explosion of coastal life is vital to the foundation of the food chain for our oceans.

When we pump freshwater from any volcanic island, such as we find in Fiji -- we remove a vital life-giving force from that region of our global ocean. In fact, Fiji Water brags about how remote the Fijian Islands are -- and thus capitalizes on the purity of Fiji water. However, this remoteness is what makes Fijian freshwater all the more valuable to the local people, their tropical ecosystems, and the oceanic ecosystems that have evolved in that region over millions of years.

Therefore, each time we see a bottle of Fiji Water -- let's consider the true price of that bottle to our living world of today and of the future. Hopefully, we will see the price that reaches far beyond the money in our pockets.

William E. Marks is the founder of Martha's Vineyard Magazine and Nantucket Magazine. He is the author of, The History of Wind Power on Martha's Vineyard; The Holy Order of Water, Healing Earth's Waters and Ourselves; and publisher of Water Voices from Around The World.

 
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