We’ve all been there. It’s a hot summer day, you’re on a road trip with your friends, and your thirst is getting too real. So you head into a convenience store to grab a bottle of water. You don’t mess around with that $5 Fiji stuff, a bottle of $2 Arrowhead will do. Yeah, it’s not free, but you need water to live. It’s a harmless habit. Or so we all thought.
For most of us, bottled water is a part of everyday life. It’s quick, it’s convenient, and we’ve grown up thinking that it’s better for us than “dirty” tap water. Friends, we’ve been bamboozled.
The bottled water industry is just another example of big corporations tricking us into thinking their products are better for you than a public commodity. Most bottled water is sold by soda companies, who have convinced the American public that tap water isn’t safe to drink. A Pepsi VP once said, “Tap water is the enemy… When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to irrigation and washing dishes.”
Now, obviously there is some sense to not drinking whatever comes out of a pipe, but tap water in the U.S. has been highly regulated by the EPA since the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. Facilities are inspected every single day to make sure the water is as pure as it can be.
Tap water facilities also add a small amount of chlorine to water, which might make you groan and complain about the taste, but it keeps harmful bacteria from growing in your water. If you’re still pissed, you can easily mitigate the taste with a carbon-based filter, like the one in your Brita, so take a chill.
Bottled water facilities, however, are only inspected once a month, and only at the source of the water where it is cleanest. They do not put chlorine in their water, which means no one knows what could be growing in your bottle of water which has been sitting in a warehouse for months.
One thing that could be growing in there? E. coli. Just this week, 14 brands of bottled water were recalled because there was E. coli bacteria growing at the source.
“No one should think that bottled water is better regulated, better protected or safer than tap,” says Eric Goldstein, a representative of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
But water that comes from a “pristine mountain spring” has to be better for you, right? While many bottled water companies use strong marketing to convince you that their water comes from a magically clean spring where wild unicorns come to drink, almost half of bottled water comes from the same facilities your tap water does.
Why is this the first time you’re hearing this madness? Because bottled water companies are not always required to say on the bottles’ labels where their water comes from, and can use whatever marketing they want to mislead you into thinking their water comes straight from the mountainside.
Sometimes the companies do admit that that they are just selling tap water, like in 2007 when CNN reported Aquafina was changing its labels to reflect that the water was from a tap facility. But there are plenty of companies that still withhold this kind of information.
Feeling cheated yet? Don’t worry, there’s more.
For one, bottled water costs more than gasoline, and according to National Geographic, bottled water can be up to 2,900 times more expensive than tap water. Yes, you read that right. 2,900 times.
To put that in more tangible terms, this bottled water cost calculator says that if you buy 100 water bottles per year at the price of $1.50 each, given tap water costs $0.002 per gallon on average in the US, you are spending $149.80 more to get the same amount of water. You could buy 30 pints of Ben & Jerry’s with that money. Priorities, people.
And what about the effect all those disposable water bottles are having on the planet? Americans use around 50 billion bottles of water a year, and sadly 80% of those bottles are not recycled. Those that are recycled have been found to leach toxic chemicals into the products they are recycled into, according to research by the Columbia Water Center.
Thankfully, some people are catching on to the reality of how much bottled water companies have been scamming us. The city of Bundanoon in Australia is the first city in the world to ban the sale of bottled water, instead installing more water fountains across the city. Heck yes!
But if you don’t live in Bundanoon, how are you supposed to stay hydrated in this cruel, cruel world?
Go buy a reusable water bottle! For $10 you can get a 32-oz. Nalgene, which will last you for life. Literally, these things have a lifetime warranty.
You might be scared to use a reusable plastic water bottle because you heard that they have scary chemicals in them like BPA, but so many water bottles today are BPA-free (just check the bottle’s label), and stainless steel and glass water bottles are becoming cheaper as demand increases.
Empty reusable water bottles are allowed at music festivals and airports, the two places where you are going to get overcharged for bottled water the most, so there really isn’t a reason not to have one with you. Be smart, people.
And if you can’t handle water that doesn’t taste like it came out of a tropical waterfall? Get a Brita, or another water filtration system. While they might set you back $30 or $40, they make your water taste better and fit perfectly into your college fridge.
So the next time your thirst hits this summer, take a second to walk to a water fountain or fill up your reusable bottle instead of wasting your hard earned cash on a plastic water bottle. When you’re at a restaurant, make sure you ask for tap water instead of bottled. Your wallet and the planet will thank you.