Why Can't We Just Stop Drinking Bottled Water?

Human beings are basically a watertight envelope filled with fluid and a few bony bits. We need water. Plus, it's great for your skin. But the main reason the bottled water industry has exploded over the last decade isn't because tap water is unsafe. It's because, with the market for soft drinks basically flat, beverage manufacturers needed a new growth industry. They piggy-backed the chic of bottled water sold in restaurants in places like Europe (where the quality of tap water can sometimes be iffy) onto health worries of all kinds and mounted large advertising campaigns, complete with pictures of snow-capped mountains, pristine streams, and healing mineral springs.

And we bought it. Big time. According to the International Council of Bottled Water Associations, in 2003, Americans spent nearly $8 billion buying 24.5 million liters of bottled water. That's roughly 90 liters, or almost 24 gallons per person. The Earth Policy Institute says that figure has risen to more than 30 gallons in 2007 at a cost of $9 billion."

So we are spending fortunes on bottled water that may not even be any better than tap water. Just last week the Environmental Working Group found that 10 popular brands of bottled water contained an average of 8 chemical pollutants in each and more than one-third of the chemicals found are not even regulated in bottled water. And here's the crazy thing: in some cases bottled water comes from the same place as tap water -- a public water supply!

Now let's talk planet. Nearly a quarter of water bottles are shipped across borders -- in planes, in trucks, in boats -- emitting greenhouse gasses along the way. In addition to all the oil that is required for shipping, the plastic that holds the water is derived from crude oil. That's a lot of oil. In fact, Americans' demand for bottled water requires more than 17 million barrels of oil per year!

So what's wrong with us? It's not as safe, it's bad for our planet and it's clearly more expensive. It's just become a nation wide nasty habit. So let's all start today and SAY NO to bottled water. Done. Finished. Never again. The alternatives? Go buy a water filter pitcher or install a water filter in your house. Break down and buy one of those metal water bottles -- I think that you'll find it's stylish these days to carry one around.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.