Why do people buy water?

While waiting in line at the airport this morning to buy coffee, I noticed that many people were buying plastic bottles of water—at $3-4 per pop (my coffee was $2.50). And this wasn’t fizzy water, but regular still water, like Dasani, that has been filtered and may have had a bit of minerals added. Other people were walking around with bottles of water in their hand, which always reminds me of infants carrying their bottles of formula or a bunch of Linuses with their blankies.

Why do people pay, and pay big, for water that is no better, and no better for you, than water you can get from the tap? Bottled water is energy-inefficient, uses fossil fuels to make, and costs more than gasoline! And it swells landfills with petroleum byproducts.

And the airport corridor was lined with water fountains, where you could swill very good Chicago tap water for free—as much as you want! I remember some years ago when Consumer Reports had people do blind tastings of bottled still water, and included New York City tap water (which comes from the Catskills, I believe) as a control. Guess which one won for flavor? Most people, I suspect, drink bottled waters for the taste, not the health effects.

Now I can understand buying water if there are no fountains available (that’s rare in the U.S.), or if the local tap water is foul-tasting (as it was in Davis, California), or you’re overseas where the water may be injurious (in India, though, I simply add iodine tablets to tap water). But otherwise it makes no sense to me.  If you need a supply to keep yourself hydrated, there are plenty of aluminum (or plastic) water bottles around that can be refilled. And, in French restaurants, I always request “une carafe d’eau, s’il vous plaît” (free) to accompany my food and wine. There is no need to be embarrassed for requesting tap water.

Bottled water seems to me, in general, a waste of money and resources, and it’s ecologically unsound.

Here are some of the costs (from How Stuff Works):

In a single year, manufacturers around the world use about 2.7 million tons of plastic to bottle water. Most of those bottles are a type of plastic called polyethylene terepthalate, or PET, which is produced from crude oil. To produce bottles to meet yearly bottled-water demand in the United States alone requires 1.5 million barrels of oil. That much oil could power about 100,000 cars for a year, according to the Earth Policy Institute.

And almost 90 percent of bottled-water bottles end up in the trash or on the ground, not in recycling bins. They can take up to 1,000 years to degrade, and when they do, they can leak harmful chemicals into the ground, contaminating ground water — ironically inducing a new cycle of pollution that means bottled water may actually be a necessity in the United States some day. Some companies, like the Colorado-based BIOTA bottled-water company, are making a concerted effort to reduce their effect on the environment. BIOTA uses a corn-based, biodegradable plastic bottle that can take fewer than three months to degrade in a compost pile.

As for recycling those bottles, don’t count on it:

. . . As a result, a lot of recycling companies in the United States won’t do it. Most recycling of plastic bottles ends up happening overseas, particularly in China. Those billions of bottles have to be shipped there, meaning even more energy is consumed to get the bottles to the point of recycling. And once they are broken down for re-use, manufacturers are typically not able to build a bottle out of recycled plastic alone. A “recycled” plastic bottle has far more virgin plastic in it than recycled plastic.

There are more costs as well, which you can learn about at the link.

Tap water: the Official Website Water™.

~

164 Comments

  1. JohnE
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:27 am | Permalink

    While I try to be a responsible citizen when it comes to the environment, I’m can’t claim to be a rabid environmentalist. However, I can’t help but be struck by the absolutely outrageous idea of shipping water half way around the world from the island of Fiji to the U.S., apparently for the cache associated with carrying around a bottle of “Fiji Water.” What a colossal and arrogant waste of money and resources!!!

    • GBJames
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:41 am | Permalink

      Yeah.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

      They could also have one tiny bottle shipped from Fiji, dilute it with fifteen million gallons of tap water and truthfully write “contains water imported from the Fiji islands” on the label, the way they do with the “blueberries” one finds in muffins.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        That’s certainly a viable business model that might even be practiced today.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        Hey, if they also threw in some succussions, it would be even Fiji-er!

      • Richard C
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

        Homeopathic water!

        • merilee
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

          yes natural organic homeopathic water;-(

          • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:24 am | Permalink

            I’m going to steal all these ideas and become an imported, super fiji-fied, natural, organic homeopathic water magnate.

            • Matt G
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

              Wait, how do you make serial dilutions of water?

              • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:37 am | Permalink

                That is a trade secret between me and a yet to be determined, charismatic corporate mascot that we both swear to take to our graves in a upcoming TV commercial campaign.

              • Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:25 am | Permalink

                Use (say) ethanol as the solvent. Not all solutions are aqueous. :)

              • Matt G
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:36 am | Permalink

                Bob- When are you going public? I want in.

                Keith- As it happens, one of my hobbies is diluting water using barley and wheat, catalyzed by yeast.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Personally, I currently refuse to buy anything from Fiji, or visit there. Their democratically elected government was ousted in a military coup a few years ago and now there are no elections, the judiciary isn’t free, and the media is controlled.

        I’ve recently had to buy water. I live in a very small town in the poorest rural region in NZ. The water should be good, but visitors to our magnificent scenery use our waterways from the mountains as toilets, so it’s dangerous to drink untreated water. Our water treatment plant breaks down regularly, and although town water is still treated to a certain extent during those times, it’s not guaranteed safe.

        Personally, I don’t get how people can afford to constantly be buying water, and why they do when they don’t have to. Having to do it for a few weeks was annoying. I always recycle though, so at least my empties didn’t go into the landfill.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

          Where do you live, Heather? My mom grew up in Waihi which isn’t very posh, at least not then.

  2. Garnetstar
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:29 am | Permalink

    They were buying bottled water before they’d gone through security? Or were you at the airport to travel, and had gone through?

    If they were through security, of course they were buying water for the plane trip, but, as you say, why not bring an empty reusable bottle and fill it up at the fountains after the TSA line?

    If they were outside security, there’s no reason on earth they should be buying bottled water, very silly.

    There are really good glass water bottles that are coated with silicone to keep them from breaking, and you can wash the entire thing in the dishwasher (some reusable bottles can’t be so washed). They’re called bkr (correct spelling, all lower case). If you happen to break the bottle, they’ll send you a new one and you can put the silicone coating back on.

    • Garnetstar
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:32 am | Permalink

      And, I forgot: most plastic water bottles leach monomers into the water, especially if left in the sun, and most of those monomers are carcinogenic. Perhaps if word of that gets around enough, people will get their own reusable bottles.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:42 am | Permalink

      They were inside security, but there are fountains both inside and outside. One good thing about the U.S. is that there are water fountains nearly everywhere.

      • Latverian Diplomat
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

        Except on a plane in flight of course. Some people get very dehydrated on flights and want to be sure to have water available.

        Yes people should carry reusable containers and refill them at said water fountains. Some people use old bottled-water bottles that way too.

        Bottled water has its uses, but yes, Americans buy way too much of it. Criticizing it in a context where it’s more reasonable than usual is of limited value in changing that.

        • Kurtis Rader
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          I used to fly enough on business to have access to airline “sky clubs”. Nobody needs to bring water on the flight. The stewards will gladly give you all the water you can drink. There really is no good reason to bring bottled water on a flight.

          • wideworldofdonuts
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

            Unless you’re flying one of the “no frills” airlines like Frontier or Spirit, where they will charge you for the privilege of being served a cup of water, or want to have easy access to more water than it is reasonable to ask the crew to pour into a tiny 4-oz. cup for you over and over and over again, or just don’t want to have to wait around for the overworked, underpaid flight crew to get around to you. There really are plenty of good reasons to bring bottled water on a flight.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:08 am | Permalink

            Flight attendants will serve you all the water you want — in disposable plastic cups. I don’t see how that’s better than disposable water bottles.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:45 pm | Permalink

              Having made a 13-hour trip with an incipient cold (which makes me thirsty), the best I could score off the flight attendant was four small 100ml tear-top plastic cups. This was on Emirates. Between those and scoring as much water off the attendants as I could whenever they came past, I just managed to survive. But, major hassles in hoarding four small tear-top cups full of water which were liable to get damaged & leak if dropped or squeezed. Compare with the ease of handling one screw-top water bottle which bloody Dubai security took off me…

              Last year in similar circumstances on Etihad the flight attendant gave me a 1 1/2 litre screw-top bottle, two-thirds full. Guess which airline gets my vote?

              • Richard C
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:30 pm | Permalink

                In the US, Southwest Airlines has water in soda-style aluminum cans (which they recycle). Normally they’ll service it to you in those little plastic cups with ice, but you can always ask for a whole can.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

                Well, to be fair to Emirates’ flight attendant, I guess four plastic cups fully as the best she felt she could do. Probably both Emirates and Etihad’s flight attendants were bending the rules.

                What strikes me as bizarre is that all the medical advice you get on flying is to keep well hydrated, yet frequently ‘Security’ and the airports and airlines all conspire to make this difficult.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      I love my glass bottle but I am always afraid it will break. I also have a bunch of metal ones if I’m on the move.

      • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:34 am | Permalink

        Yeah, me too. I have a bottle for the gym that infuses whatever you want into the water. So I run my tap water, which has an old iron pipe taste but is otherwise fine, through a Brita filter pitcher, add three slices of cucumber and BOOM, cucumber infused water between sets that doesn’t cost eleventy-bajillion dollars a bottle and doesn’t create near as much waste. Reusable bottles are way better all around.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      why not bring an empty reusable bottle and fill it up at the fountains after the TSA line?

      I’m guessing that if everyone did that, there would be queues at every fountain, a lot more missed flights, and a generally higher level of passenger disgruntlement. Economies of scale make it more efficient to delegate the bottle-filling to middlemen who specialize in that.

      So that leaves us with the problem of disposable bottles. Maybe the solution there is some sort of trade-in program where you exchange an empty reusable bottle for a full one. Same tap water you get from the fountain, but the transaction is much quicker because the refilling happens elsewhere, in bulk.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:11 pm | Permalink

        Basically, once a piece of plastic goes into the wide world, there’s no guarantee that it won’t get used for kerosene, carcinogens, pee, whatever. Maybe in your commune of like-minded people a container swap would work. General public? Never.

        • Gregory Kusnick
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

          That’s a fair point. But it’s worth noting that when I was a boy, before the invention of paper milk cartons, this is how milk was distributed: you put your empty milk bottles on your doorstep at night, and the milkman came in the wee hours and replaced them with full ones.

          As a young adult in the 1970s, I used to buy beer the same way, in returnable glass bottles that were refilled by the distributor.

          • Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

            As a child of the 60s, I agree – and miss such reusage. There seems to be different issues with reusable glass vs. plastics which have more stability problems, I think. Local milk carriers here reuse large plastic bottles still — I finally gave up on them, because their bottles harbored so much bacteria that the milk always went bad before the week was up.

            • Garnetstar
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:36 am | Permalink

              That’s why they need to use a material like glass, that can be cleaned in a dishwasher at high heat, or even with bleach. Many plastics can be really tough to sterilize.

          • Gregory Kusnick
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 12:13 am | Permalink

            May I just add that in an era when I can watch a live video feed from space on my pocket computer while sipping coffee at my local donut shop, it feels pretty damn weird to admit that I predate paper milk cartons.

          • Jonathan Wallace
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 4:57 am | Permalink

            I live in the UK and still get my milk delivered to my doorstep in returnable glass bottles!

            • GBJames
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:21 am | Permalink

              We have milk delivery available in Milwaukee where I live. My family subscribed for a few years but it became eventually untenable because you need to get a minimum delivery of 3 half gallons of milk. There’s now only two of us who need, at maximum, a half gallon a week.

            • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:18 am | Permalink

              Do you still scoop the cream off the top or is it now homogenized?

              • Matt G
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:27 am | Permalink

                Do you prefer your milk homogenized, or is it all the same to you?

              • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:38 am | Permalink

                Hee hee

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:51 am | Permalink

                +1 Hilarious!

  3. Rachel
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Beats me. Granted, I grew up in NY, where our tap water is actually pretty good, but it seems like such a waste, both in terms of money and in terms of environmental impact. Plastic, disposable water bottles are actually forbidden at the university where I work. Instead, we have water fountains on each floor, and new students are given reusable water bottles at orientation.

  4. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:38 am | Permalink

    I can speak for New York City tap water: it’s excellent, and it’s better than the water I had in the Boston area (where I grew up).

    • Matt G
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

      NYC water is the best. Unfortunately we are swimming in yuppies, and therefore bottled water.

  5. Kevin
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    Drinking non-tap water (unless it is foul tasting) is a waste of resources.

    Fortunately, I am like a camel and can consume a great deal at one time. I also have an exceptionally large bladder, which I am sure makes airlines upset when I go on trips:

    http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/if-everyone-went-to-the-bathroom-before-boarding-the-plane-ticket-prices-might-be-lower/

    • bacopa
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      One can easily get used to foul tasting tap water in a few days. The area just south of Galveston Bay has no source of nearby fresh water except for the aquifers underneath. They are fresh, while the nearby rivers are brackish. This is also a sulfur mining area, so you can imagine what the water tastes like. But you don’t mind it after a couple of days.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        My experience differs. I’ve spent the summer in Davis, CA (notorious for its hard water, as Jerry notes) and while I don’t notice the taste of the water as much as first did, I do notice that I refill my water bottle less often than I would at home in Seattle. Instead I find myself reaching for iced tea, lemonade, or soft drinks to quench my thirst.

        So while the taste no longer seems as objectionable as it once did, it nevertheless continues to subliminally affect my water consumption.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

          Seems some people are slower to get used to a taste than others. I happen to be of the most stubborn type. Having lived in NYC for a few years (and I just learned from this post that it’s known for tasty tap water) I still detect an unpleasant trace of something, maybe chlorine, and I’d always boil the water if possible.

  6. Rebecca
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:44 am | Permalink

    At an airport, if I forgot my water bottle, I might buy a bottle of water for the plane because I feel icky if I don’t drink enough water on a long flight. Of course, if I remember my water bottle, I’ll fill it from the tap once I’m through security.

    This situation only applies to ‘forgot my water bottle’ and ‘going long time without tap water access’.

  7. Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:47 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Manjeet Kumar.

  8. Matt G
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    I spend the summer in the Adirondack Mountains, at a small cottage on a small lake. The water in the cottage is from the lake, and therefore inexhaustible (I’d go broke from the cost of running the pump before I ran out of water). Two nearby residents have made spring water free to anyone who wants it – just drive up and fill your jugs. If you have access to clean, free water, take it!

    The other thing about bottled water is that is has no fluoride. I wonder if that contributes to the incredibly poor dental hygiene of many of the people up here (poor and rural).

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      We had a bad water supply scare a few years ago in a small town called Walkerton. Near where I live is a really nice artesian well and people would fill up their jugs of water with it. After that scare, the government took away the taps…no more lovely water. :(

      I myself have a well and I’ve had people tell me they wouldn’t drink water from it. Okay then, keep drinking out of the lake but I bet your water has more pee in it than mine does. :)

      • Matt G
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

        I have been assured that the water is tested every year. How often do you have yours tested?

  9. John
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:53 am | Permalink

    In the UK we used to scoff at our European partners who couldn’t drink their tap water. Now, as a result of a very successful branding and marketing campaign, we also buy water which is virtually free from our taps.

    Remarkably, it takes as much as 5 litre of water to produce 1 litre of bottled water which is a stupendously stupid waste of a natural resource. John

    • jeremyp
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 4:42 am | Permalink

      And there has been at least one scandalous case where it turned out that the bottling company was filling the “mineral” water bottles from a tap.

      I think the answer to JAC’s question is “convenience”. I always travel with a bottle of water in my ruck sack. The bottle is always a bottle that I bought from a shop containing “mineral” water, but I reuse it until I have to go through airport security, at which point I throw it away.

      I’ve been doing this ever since the liquids ban came in and it was only last week that it occurred to me that, as long as I drank all the water before going through security, I could keep the bottle.

      • Posted August 29, 2014 at 4:49 am | Permalink

        I forgot at one point to empty my (Nalgene) water bottle when I went through security, which was actually a transit security post at the Frankfurt airport. I was coming back from a country with dubious water (can’t remember which), and the water was light red because it contained an iodine tablet. I told them it was iodine, but they doubted me, and so I offered to dump the water. But no, they made me DRINK IT, I guess expecting that I’d admit it was explosive or something if I had to drink it. But I swilled it down–nearly a quart.

        • Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:02 am | Permalink

          And then could you find a bathroom?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:34 am | Permalink

          I’d be so tempted to feign poisoning and then laugh and say I was joking. Those antics tend to be met without humour and sometimes worse so it’s hard for me to go through airport and border checkpoints, meaning I must look scared and guilty all the time.

          • Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            Because you’re afraid of breaking out in the giggles…post 9/11 i was often flying down to Charlottesville, VA, to visit my mother. On one trip when we had been furnishing her new apt I found this really cool Pavlov’s Dog doorbell in an antique/junk store. It’s wood and “leather”, hand-cranked and the ears wiggle and mouth opens and closes. I had it in my carryon and the young guy at the airport security check with the machine gun put his gun down and wanted to “work” the dog:-). We all had some giggles. I did NOT ask if I could hold the machine gun…

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:09 am | Permalink

              There was a guy with a machine gun? This must’ve been right around 9/11.

              I once (and still have) a Nokia wifi device that was pre-ipod touch or any tablet. It ran a flavour of linux. People manning the lines in airports were fascinated with it because they never saw such a thing. They had all sorts of questions about where I got it, etc. :)

              • merilee
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, in the fairly tiny C’ville airport. The guy looked around 18. This was probably 2002 or 2003.

          • Matt G
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:45 am | Permalink

            You clutch your chest with one arm, raise the other overhead, stagger around and say “Oh no, this is the big one! You hear that, Elizabeth? I’m comin’ to join you, honey!”

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:11 am | Permalink

              Ha ha! Except I bet a lot of people don’t remember that show anymore. I used to watch it all the time.

  10. Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    As someone who has spent several years in third world countries and consequently had to boil and filter tap water, it is amazing to me that anyone would forgo the convenience and economy of drinking America’s safe tap water.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

      Indeed. That also struck me very forcefully when returning the the regions of safe tap water.

  11. Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    I’m totally with you. I use (used) Gatorade bottles every day to carry my water with me (I need to hydrate a lot).

    In airports, if I remember :), I bring an empty used bottle and fill from the drinking fountain inside security.

    In places with dicey tap water, I carry my iodine kit (unbreakable dropper, Nalgene bottle of tincture of iodine). Iodine tincture is as effective as any other sanitizing agent, it gets to work quicker than tablets, and doubles as a wound disinfectant, which, in most places where the water is dicey, you also need since infections usually follow on any break in the skin.

    I find the bottled-water thing to be: Wasteful, waaaaay too expensive, and faddish/brand-worshipping , all of which I dislike.

  12. Amy
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    It disturbs me seeing so many Chinese carry trunk by trunk of bottle waters out of supermarket. I have seen a girl quit her job after found out the source of the water machine of the company is tap water. Indicated by local government, the tap water is good enough to drink. I drink tap water all the time without boiling…

    • bacopa
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      The same thing happens around here, but it’s mostly Hispanic customers. The Mexican government used to publish an informational comic book about how to not die when crossing into the US. I wish they had included the information that you don’t need to worry about tap water.

  13. James Walker
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    A colleague of mine suggested (not without some merit) that it’s the result of a brilliant campaign by the makers of soft drinks (whose sales otherwise would have drastically decreased) to convince people that tap water is bad.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. I’m sure that a few of these marketers got big raises, too, and they were deserved: they got customers to pay for what they would get for free otherwise.

  14. Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    The Reason? Marketing.

    The big bottled water brands are owned by the big soda companies (e.g. Dasani is a Coca Cola Product). When they could not sell the US public any more soda, I guess we have reached some sort of maximum, they looked for other products to hawk. Fruit Juices and bottled water were natural complementary products because of similar supply chains etc…

    The problem is that the combined marketing efforts of Coca Cola, Pepsico, Nestle etc is far bigger than the government’s marketing budget to educate the public on the value of consuming clean tap water.

    (It probably doesnt help that 60 minutes shows documentraies of people lighting their tap water in counties above fracking wells.)

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

      And just to note, Dasani is essentially Coke without the bubbles and without the flavor syrup, and costs more than a soda does.

      I drink municipal tap water and always have.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      Sean sez: It probably doesnt help that 60 minutes shows documentraies of people lighting their tap water in counties above fracking wells.

      Coca-Cola and Nestle say: On the contrary: from where we stand, it helps A LOT!

    • Blondin
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      I like to imagine the boardroom scene when the idea was first “floated”:

      “Here’s an idea. Our product is mostly water with a bunch of sugar & some flavoring. Let’s leave out the sugar & flavoring, put the water in ultra-cheap disposable plastic containers and quadruple the price!”

  15. Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I will buy bottled water sometimes so that I have the bottle to refill. Once i buy it, I will add Crystal Light, Mio, or a similar product to it to flavor it. Then when I drink it all, I can refill it at a fountain and have another bottle of flavored water. Sometimes (like airports or staying somewhere without dishwashing capabilities) a disposable bottle is preferable since sometimes a reusable permanent bottle will start to stink after a while or is otherwise not allowed.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      One of my earthycrunchy friends says it’s not safe to reuse those bottles – but then she also thinks tap water is unsafe so there you go. Lots of natural food folks have been fed all kinds of lies about aluminum shavings in the fluoride and so forth. It’s a fascinating information bubble.

  16. ekinodum
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I’ve lived in southern and central California most of my life, and although the tap water may be safe to drink, it has never tasted good. In the last decade when living in town we use bottled water for anything we drink, including coffee, and tapwater for cooking. More recently we’ve been on a well water system, and here in the middle of California’s drought central the wellwater can be funky at times, causing us to modify our cooking habits- we end up using bottled water for more than just drinking, but mostly tend to eat things that don’t require adding water. I never really liked spaghetti, anyway.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      I have never understood why California water is so bad. I grew up in San Jose…gross water; so I can see why Californian’s would drink bottled water. Washington state has great tap water, but now we’re on a private well which is even better.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        I agree that California water doesn’t taste great ( my grandfather used to get those big bottles of “spring” water delivered back in the 50s in L.A.) Bay Area water not very tasty either, but I really dislike the taste of any bottled water I’ve ever had. I carry a little bottle in my purse, which I refill post-security. Toronto area tap water is very good, as is Whistler’s. Moab’s not so much- kind of chloriney like L.A.

  17. Desnes Diev
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

    The answer to the question in the title is pretty well summarized in the video “The Story of Bottled Water” (http://tinyurl.com/cbpgeeu).

    Desnes

  18. Richard C
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    Unless you live somewhere with dangerously polluted tap water, bottled water is insane. Even if the local tap water tastes foul, that’s nothing a cheap filter won’t fix. But bottling up the Earth’s most plentiful resource and shipping it halfway across the country or even the world is absolutely insane.

    When I’m in Thailand or somewhere else with dangerous tap water, I usually still skip the bottled water and drink tea. (A lot of restaurants there provide free pitchers of cold tap water with a very slight amount of tea in it, as their way of telling you it’s been boiled.)

    By the way, Penn & Teller did an awesome episode on bottled water.

    • David C.
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:05 pm | Permalink

      The episode of Penn and Teller’s Bullshit is here

  19. kieran
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

    Dr Strangelove? Our precious bodily fluids.
    Can I bring a sigg on a plane? I ask because I haven’t tried to get one on because I don’t want to lose an expensive water bottle.

  20. Stephen P
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    While I drink tap water for preference, I’ve been in numerous places – even in the so-called developed countries – where the tap water tastes horrible. So it depends on the circumstances.

  21. Posted August 28, 2014 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    The water here is heavily mineralized. I’m prone to kidney stones, and so use demineralized water. That means occasionally buying bottled. I agree that most should avoid buying what can be had out of the tap safely. If I were a conspiracy advocate, I’d say it’s all a plot to get us used to “buying” what will be a regulated scarce commodity. :)

  22. DW
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

    Dear Ceiling Cat,
    I firmly resolve with the help of your grace, to confess my sins. Sometimes I indulge myself with a bottle of S. Pellegrino. Do I get a lesser penance because it is a glass bottle (instead of plastic)?

    • GBJames
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Probably not. Shipping costs are much higher for glass bottles.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      As Ceiling Cat’s earthly minion, I have consulted him on whether you get a lesser penance. His answer:

      “HELL, NO! THIS PERSON IS STILL WASTING PRECIOUS FOSSIL-BASED ENERGY!”

      Ceiling Cat also said that if he sees you drink that stuff again (and he sees everything, including the fall of a sparrow–which gives Him noms), he will SMITE you with His paw.

      • Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

        LOL- remember the great Far Side cartoon with god at his computer and a huge SMITE key on the keyboard with g’s finger poised above it? I think somebody is lowering a piano out a window and some poor schmo is walking underneath…

  23. Les
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    San Francisco has Hetch Hetchy water which is arguably the best in the world. I’ve convinced many a tourist to drop the blue bottled water and go for the best, from the tap.

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      But why does Palo Alto’s water taste so bad?

      • Kevin
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

        And the bubbles in the water…sometimes it tools like milk.

        • merilee
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:53 pm | Permalink

          ??

          • Matt G
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

            It “looks” like autocorrect struck again.

            • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

              I didn’t get what you meant in the first part either?? ( now I can’t even find the comment…)

              • Matt G
                Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:53 am | Permalink

                You were reading Kevin’s comment, not mine. I assume he means that the huge number of tiny bubbles messes up the refraction and makes the water appear cloudy, like it has milk mixed in.

              • Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:00 am | Permalink

                Most likely..🐯

    • madscientist
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

      What would make it the best though? Water in Norway is very clean and has no taste at all. (I hope they at least fluorinate the water though.) I imagine going up into the foothills of the Himalayas you can get some nice snow melt which doesn’t have much animal pee and crap in it either – good enough to drink without boiling or filtration.

      • Richard C
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

        The vast majority of San Francisco’s drinking water comes from Sierra snowmelt via the Tuolumne River and the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite. That’s about as close to your Himalaya dream as you can get in the United States.

        By the way, the best water I’ve ever tasted was during a Yosemite hike a few years ago. I ran out of water so I filtered about a liter and a half from the upper Merced River, also fresh (and incredibly cold) Sierra snowmelt. The filter was probably completely unnecessary given how pristine that water is, but I was being cautious. And oh man. “Good” doesn’t even begin to describe it!

  24. Chris
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

    Tap water at home.

    Bottle water if traveling, rehearsing with band, or otherwise mobile.

    Not into the “designer” stuff that Vice skewers here with many swears.

    • Chris
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      FWIW I work in advertising. The number of people that I see with this stuff is disturbing.

    • Chris
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Plus I don’t drink soda so I never have spare bottles!

  25. Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    We fill empty two-liter soda bottles with tap water for hiking or car trips (both cars are stocked with at least half a dozen bottles at any time). These are replaced regularly so they don’t get icky.
    Neither of us can drink from a sigg bottle because our first experience with them was to carry gas for the camping stove!

  26. Barbara
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    I use bottled water on field trips. I buy some early in the season and keep refilling the bottles the rest of the summer. I gradually accumulate extras because I start traveling and find that I forgot water and have to buy another bottle at a gas station along the way. (I always forget something; water is easier to replace than my GPS or hand lens.) The tougher cheap plastic bottles can make it through the dishwasher undamaged. Some of the plastic bottles stay with me through the winter, labels torn or lost, and are reused more the next summer.

    Sometimes I carry bottled water (same bottles) around town. The bottles are convenient.

    Alternatives? I don’t like the taste of water from metal bottles. Glass breaks. Tough plastic water bottles from camping stores are fine but not really better, in my opinion, than a reused water bottle off the grocery shelf. And even the tough bottles get damaged or lost or start to taste bad; better to use and eventually loose/recycle a cheap one.

    Also, I carry a plastic bottle of water with me when flying ever since I flew through a Minneapolis airport too cheap, or too kind to all the food sellers, to have any water fountains at all!

    So I don’t apologize for buying bottled water.

    • Marella
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:51 am | Permalink

      This pretty much describes my bottled water usage too. Convenience and dislike of alternatives. Most often I buy bottled water when my alternative would be to buy soda. It’s the lesser of the two evils.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Coke is cheaper than bottled water (and Pepsi’s cheaper still). So after you’ve drunk the Pepsi, just keep refilling from the tap. (Or if you don’t like soft drinks, just pour it out on the ground and refill your bottle from the tap and it’s STILL cheaper than buying bottled water…)

  27. Rob
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    I take my empty bottle through security and then fill it from the tap. I never get on a plane without some water and a snack. If/when we get delayed or just sit on the ground for a few hours, at least I have some water, and don’t have to start a riot to get the cabin crew to dispense some drinks.

  28. Wayne Robinson
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    I think Australia also has the disease of buying expensive unnecessary bottled water (I don’t bother looking in the appropriate aisle in the supermarket because I never buy it).

    My home city, Perth, has perfectly adequate tap water – the only problem is that there’s not enough of it, because we get most of our rain in Winter and the past Winter was dryish yet again, so the dams haven’t been refilled.

    Coincidentally I got my water bill for the previous 2 months – I used 33 litres of water per day costing 5 cents per day (I try to reduce my water consumption as much as possible, Perth being so dry). Still – less than 1/3 cent per litre for water where it’s in short supply.

    • madscientist
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

      The dissolved salts content of WA water is typically so high it has an awful taste unless you put it through an ion exchange column or use distilled water. Yorkshire water may be murky but at least it doesn’t taste as bad.

      • Wayne Robinson
        Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

        madscientist,

        Actually I don’t mind the taste of Perth water. It is ‘hard’ to some extent – occasionally I have to clean the kettle of its accumulated mineral deposits.

        Western Australia is a very big state. It’s difficult to render a blanket statement concerning water quality. The places I have visited seem to have had reasonable water from the tap.

        • John Scanlon, FCD
          Posted August 28, 2014 at 11:21 pm | Permalink

          I’m also living in Perth, but have to admit I don’t drink the water here much. I’d grown up drinking (usually) straight from the tap in Sydney, but later moved to Adelaide where due to the salt content you can become very dehydrated if you only drink the water. Fortunately there was Coopers.
          When on fieldwork in the Pilbara we buy some bottled water and then usually keep refilling from the filtered & chilled water provided at mining camps (from bores or, if available, seasonal rivers). It’s a frickin’ desert, with regular cyclones, and you can go a long way from a reticulated water supply.

          There’s another word for plastic ending up in landfill: carbon sequestration. :)

  29. Barbara Radcliffe
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    Yes, bottled water is far too popular in Adelaide as well. I was amused to see a coffee stall at Adelaide Airport that offered ‘organic water’ for sale. This conjured up the image of water contaminated with faecal matter as per the Walkerton incident.

  30. alexandra
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

    when you see a committee meeting in the Senate or House or anywhere – and they have throw- away water bottles – call & protest!

  31. Jim Thomerson
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    I drank water out of the same plastic bottle for maybe 15 years until, on a trip, a friend who did not understand, threw it away.

    I was raised on a ranch with a windmill and a house tank. Best tasting water in the world. We replaced the house tank with a larger one. In the process we found an owl skeleton in the original house tank. Never noticed a difference in taste or got sick.

  32. Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    Well, there is a demand for Alaskan glacial ice in Japan and I suppose it’s only matter of time before Antarctic fossil water is tapped to make ice cubes for a replica Shackleton-era whiskey. I’m sure we all know someone who knows someone that would buy it at least once.

    Marketing, marketing marketing.

    I admit I have purchased bottled water out of sheer laziness. Thanks for this article, I will change.

    Mike

  33. Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    Amen! And I hope Jerry soon does a similar rip on Kentucky bluegrass which uses way too much of our fine tap water.

  34. Nick
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

    A (government owned) water business here in Melbourne posted a good video on YouTube around a year ago. It centred around a guy selling bottled fresh air, which he had branded ‘Dupe’.

    (I hope that link works)

    • Nick
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

      Argh, didn’t mean to embed. Sorry.

  35. ascanius
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:29 pm | Permalink

    here in phoenix almost everyone buys water. our water tastes pretty bad straight from the tap. too much chlorine? but allowed to sit for an hour or two uncovered it becomes quite drinkable. i store it in old glass wine jugs in the fridge. when flying i fill up a couple of plastic bottles at the aeroport drinking fountains.

    • Tumara Baap
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 12:50 am | Permalink

      Phoenix water is indeed awful. In the summer months it may even have an off note odor – due to algal blooms in the waterways. No wonder reverse-osmosis is de rigueur in homes. However, even in places with good tasting water like Memphis, municipal water will always have chlorine messing up the taste somewhat. It’s a good idea to be well hydrated on a flight. Bringing an empty bottle along involves a tad of pre-planning, and will likely involve a brief exchange with jolly TSA agent, but that’s enough to ensure few will do it… even if they are okay with tap water.
      Bottled water at $2 each may be a bad deal compared to tap water, but it is vastly better for you than a sugary coke or fruit juice beverage at the same price.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 8:55 am | Permalink

      Probably the chlorine tastes bad if it goes away when sitting. You could run it through those Britta filters too – they are just charcoal filters .

  36. CB
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

    As well as the tremendous waste of plastic there is also the question of where all that bottled water comes from and what are the regulations regarding its use.
    I highly recommend watching the documentary about the Company Nestle, the ethics of some of their top executives and the fights of several municipalities to maintain control of their water supplies. Not to mention countries which seem helpless in the face of big business
    If my attempt to copy and paste does not provide a usable link the film is easily found on Google by searching – nestle bottled water documentary

    http://www.bottledlifefilm.com/index.php/home-en.html

    • Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

      Oooh! Thank you for this – I had heard about it but forgot – thanks for the reminder. About 20 years ago I remember some scandal with Nestle and their third world formula practices in which they would push formula on these poor, uneducated women – push it from the second the baby was born by offering big incentives to participating hospitals – well the women’s milk would often dry up, and being often malnourished themselves, they were unable to produce their own milk once the babies were on the Nestle formula. They would then try to charge these women outrageous prices for the formula – money they just didn’t have. If I recall, and I should Google this but I’m exhausted – many babies did in fact die as the women would water down whatever formula they had left until there was no nutritional value. Absolutely disgusting.

  37. madscientist
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    As George Carlin put it: think of how stupid the average person is – half the population is dumber.

    In most cases it’s the triumph of marketing. In a few cases airport terminals are uncivilized and force you to buy bottles of water by removing all drinking fountains even when the local water is potable.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

      To be fair, potable water isn’t an unlimited resource, and giving it away for free doesn’t encourage conservation. In regions where water is scarce, should local residents have to forego flushing the toilet so that transient travelers can fill their water bottles at airport drinking fountains?

  38. Dionigi
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    The bit from HOW STUFF WORKS is misleading; oil is fractionally distilled into its various constituant parts to manufacture different things. The premium parts are those that can be used to power cars and the oil companies use many divese ways to get even more of the high profit materials from oil. Naptha which is the prime ingredient of gasolene is not used in the manufacture of PET so they are not using all that oil which could be used to power cars.
    I live in a country with an iffy water supply although the government claim that their tap water is drinkable however 20 litres of water in a bottle costs me just over a us dollar to buy and small 1 litre bottles are less than 4 cents a bottle.
    You can still buy Evian or other imported bottled waters at a huge price which I can’t understand. Pepsi and CocaCola both sell their bottled water at less than 4 cents a bottle even allowing for the cost of wages people in the west are getting ripped off by the marketing strategies of bottled water companies.

  39. Adam M.
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Well, I agree. I always drink bottled water. But I bottle it myself from the tap, and I’ve been using the same bottle for four years.

    You can bring a bottle through airport security if it’s empty, and fill it up on the other side from the fountain or bathroom sink.

    And if you live in a city with disgusting tap water and must buy your water from a private source, you should get a jug and refill it from the filtered water kiosks in the grocery store. It’s cheaper ($0.25/gallon), just as good, and doesn’t require using up a bottle.

  40. Jeffery
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    If you had told someone in the 1970s that bottled water would be a multi-billion-dollar industry some day, they would have laughed in your face: such are the powers of persuasion of our modern advertising industry which exploits basic aspects of human nature in order to trick people into turning over their money for products they don’t need. Learn what “buttons” to push, and you find that people are eminently trainable: unfortunately, it always seems to be easier to train them to do things that are wasteful and harmful to themselves and the environment than the other way around (I think this has to do with the natural tendency towards entropy: it’s easier to aid entropy than it is to resist it). One of the things that really seemed to get the bottled water industry off of the ground, in the Midwest at least, was the series of floods we had in the early 90s when FEMA adopted the practice of handing it out to large numbers of people- it became a “given” that bottled water was one of the “essentials”; the accepted and EXPECTED form in which drinking water was now brought into areas that had suffered natural disasters.

    Of course, a multi-million-dollar ad campaign didn’t hurt, either- by the time articles began to appear revealing how bottled water was usually no better than tap water, the “meme” of needing it had already reached critical mass in the public’s collective mind. Beliefs, once formed, take far more energy to defuse than it took to inculcate them in the first place.

    Once established, such beliefs only take a little “nudge” now and then to keep them influencing our actions: the weatherman on TV who says, “It’s going to be triple-digits out there today; be sure to stay HYDRATED”; the sporting events where bottled water is handed out to everyone whether they want it, or not, etc. It amuses me to see joggers (and even walkers) running by, clutching their little bottles: hell, they’re going to be HOME in twenty minutes! I remember bucking hay bales in rural Missouri years ago with the temps and the humidity in the 90s, and getting a drink from the jug only every hour or two- if you didn’t bring enough with you, you just had to go without. Were there really a lot of people collapsing on the street from dehydration back before bottled water was available?

    Another, “parallel” industry that has been created basically out of thin air is that of the sports drinks like Gatorade; then you’ve got your totally absurd “energy drinks” like Red Bull, which they couldn’t give away until they got the bright idea of linking it to “extreme” sports events, and the even more appallingly absurd tiny bottles of “5-hour energy” I see lying in the gutters everywhere.

    I find it very important to remember that fully one-half of the American population is of below-average intelligence: think about it- that’s where we START! Factor in greed, ignorance, and idiocy, and that pretty much knocks out another 25%!

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:23 am | Permalink

      Please keeps your comments shorter than this; this is an essay rather than a comment.

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:52 am | Permalink

      But…but…it’s got electrolytes!

    • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      I have to give Gatorade credit for being useful for long hikes in the desert on really hot days.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

        I didn’t use to bother to carry water and then on one six-mile walk on a hot day, I literally had to crawl back uphill to my car at the end of the track, because I couldn’t stand up any longer. (Luckily I had a big bottle of water in the trunk, along with spare oil and gas, for emergency car use).

        So now I always carry a bottle of water. It used to be a refilled Coke bottle, till Coke’s aggressive marketing put me off, so now it’s a refilled Pepsi bottle. Pepsi bottles are cheaper, too. (Considering the number of dilutions the dregs will have received, it could count as homeopathic Pepsi :)

        • merilee
          Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:09 pm | Permalink

          I always carry water, but once I didn’t have enough on a 6-mile hike at Devil’s Garden trail in Arches National Park on a hot summer day. I felt like one of those cartoon figures crawling through the desert at the end of the hike. That’s when I started carrying Gatorade as well on really hot days, often diluting with water.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

            Gatorade is one of those ‘sport drinks’ I take it. Being a cheapskate, I’d be just inclined to add some sugar to my water. However, instead, for energy on long walks, I just carry a couple of chocolate bars (cheapest quickest form of sugar you can buy). I find one piece of chocolate is good for about 100 vertical feet. In terms of energy expenditure, I reckon 100 feet of climb is equivalent to about a mile on the flat.

            • Posted August 30, 2014 at 7:22 am | Permalink

              I love chocolate, but I suspect it would go all squishy in the Utah high desert🍫

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 30, 2014 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

                Good point, it probably would. Gotta take the environment into account.

              • merilee
                Posted August 30, 2014 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

                There is some great dark chocolate bark with pumpkin seeds at Costco. Might be worth a try.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 30, 2014 at 7:46 am | Permalink

            If you want to get away from the sugar in gatorade, a nice alternative is pressed apple juice – not from concentrate with a teaspoon of salt for one glass.

            • Posted August 30, 2014 at 8:04 am | Permalink

              That’s an idea. I heard somewhere that Gatorade is really hard on your teeth and thst you should either drink some water or rinse your mouth after drinking it.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 30, 2014 at 8:48 am | Permalink

                Probably all the sugar. I get cavities easily and have started using mouthwash. I had to have 3 filled between my teeth despite brushing and flossing meticulously 2x a day at least. Stupid wrong mouth bacteria!

  41. Mary L
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

    I buy a supply of bottled water at the beginning of hurricane season. It can sit around a while and I want to be sure it’ll be safe to drink. (I drink it after the season.) I reuse the bottles during the year in the fridge so I always have cold water on hand and there’s always one at my bedside. I also give empty bottles to friends and neighbors to use.

  42. Another Tom
    Posted August 28, 2014 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    I must confess, I buy bottled water. Once a year I buy some bottled water to keep in the trunk of my car in case water is needed. It’s in the trunk of my car next to my first aid kit, fire extinguisher, flashlight, tire change kit, cloth grocery store bags, and a Conan the Barbarian DVD. Usually the water gets used up over the summer.

    If I know I’m going to want water, I use my nalgene water bottles. Having a water supply in one’s car, just in case, does come in handy.

    Remember, stay hydrated! I’ve had heat stroke/dehydration and it really sucks.

  43. kevinj
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    It has had massive growth in the UK in the past few years. From something, rightly, treated with disdain to being mainstream.
    Dasani isnt one of those brands though. It was intended to be and was launched a few years back but ran into a couple of hiccups.
    Started badly by using the slogan “Bottled Spunk”. Not overly appealing to the average Brit considering what spunk is slang for.
    Then got worse when it became clear it was just treated tap water which the advertising had been vague about.
    Before finally being finished off by some of the bottles having to be recalled since their treatment process managed to contaminate the water with bromate.

    The rollout to the rest of Europe was abandoned.

    • TJR
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:03 am | Permalink

      Also it was pointed out that dasani is “in a sad” backwards.

      • Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:25 am | Permalink

        Just as Evian is naive backwards. Hey, didn’t Evian start it all? I’ve been handed Dasani at conferences and it tastes just plain undrinkable!

  44. Dominic
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 1:14 am | Permalink

    In the UK there is now a dearth of public fountains, particularly in London, and public lavatories, which in my mind is a VERY bad thing. You are quite right – bottled water is atrociously bad for the environment – on those grounds alone we should stop using it, but in some places it is bottled water or carring heavy bottles (I almost typed heavy water!) around all day…

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      It is like that here in Canada as well (at least in Ontario). Typically if we have to wee while out and if we are not at a mall, we go to a Tim Horton’s or a gas station.

  45. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:03 am | Permalink

    I totally agre with Jerry – in principle. I absolutely do not buy bottled water (at ridiculously exorbitant prices) when I have a choice. If I’m going out walking I just refill an old Coke bottle from my tap.

    However, I’m a bit suspicious of public water fountains. Also, it’s handy to have a bottle to carry your water with you.

    Airports vary in their treatment of water. Charles de Gaulle (Paris) lets you carry your bottled water on the plane. Top marks. Auckland airport swipes your water at security screening but at least you can buy more in the secure departure lounge afterwards. Sydney and Brisbane and Hong Kong have plenty of water available (as I recall).

    Abu Dhabi and Dubai swipe your water and there’s nowhere to buy any more. Bastards. Also, they have fancy architecture, lots of expensive duty free shops selling watches, perfume and whisky, none of which is any damn use to me, shiny marble uncarpeted floors and not enough seats – I give my vote to airports that have plenty of seating, carpeted floors for when the seats are full, genuinely free wifi, and shops selling useful stuff like water, food and magazines. Like Sydney and Hong Kong.

  46. TJR
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:07 am | Permalink

    On the plus side, better to use that oil to make plastic than to piss it up the wall on power for 100,000 cars for a year.

    (Like many people, I use the excellent plastic bottles all the time, but only buy one once or twice a year at an airport or train station when the old one starts to wear out).

  47. Posted August 29, 2014 at 2:49 am | Permalink

    Arrogant is a good word. Though I am not religious in the least, I do have a ritual of sort at night when I go to sleep – I go through a list of things I am grateful for – to put everything in perspective and to help keep me grounded.
    It’s not prayer, but just a moment of consciousness I would call it- am I sounding Sam Harris’y? lol.
    One of the first things I am grateful for is that I have clean running water in my house. That’s just huge. I can just turn the water on and drink – knowing it’s safe for me and my family. I know that alone would be considered pure luxury for much of the world. I have enough food, (in fact – too much – I am fat and I have come to the conclusion that being overweight from overeating is immoral. It’s a tough one to swallow – no pun intended – but I have to be honest with myself. Now to do something about it is another issue – all I can do is try. ) My child has enough food (he, thus far is NOT fat lol), I am not watching him waste away from malnutrition or thirst. In fact, right now, my family enjoys their health aside from some pain issues I suffer we are all relatively healthy and for that I am grateful. I have safe power – gas and electric – I have a freaking computer with a wicked fast connection. I have a car. I have way more than I need to survive. Even though I’m in poverty and unemployed – I live in absolute luxury and I try to appreciate the “small” things – even though clean running water should not be a small thing nor taken for granted. That said, I do buy bottled water at times for convenience – especially if I’m out and about with the kid – we both get thirsty – and we often go through the water we brought with us faster than planned. I just need to adjust that. I live in the Sac area – not far from Davis – but our water is pretty good here – actually better tasting than the Napa water. (Recently moved from Napa). I’ve never minded tap water – it’s funny to see people’s reaction when you take a glass and get water out of the faucet and actually drink it- it’s like you just poured yourself a cup of poison.

  48. Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:01 am | Permalink

    In Germany, people typically buy bottled sparkly water. I know nobody who would buy still-water and that would be silly indeed. Though, undoubtly some people are silly.

    It is common for sparkly water drinkers to own a device where you can add H2CO3 to the tap-water to make it sparkly. We also have a vast recycling system in place (including most plastic bottles) that take your bottles for a “negative receipt” that is substracted from your groceries (you can also just exchange it for cash). Glass is also fully recycled, with containers everywhere that collect whatever glassware you have (and that can’t be traded in).

    All in all a very good system albeit cumbersome at times to store (and sort) all the “to recycle” materials.

    • Matt G
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:19 am | Permalink

      I lived in West Germany as an exchange student in ’85-’86, and the Germans were already recycling 90% of their glass. I bought a case of beer (my very first hefeweizen!) in a substantial plastic crate, and not returning the bottles and crate was not an option.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        I worked in a campground in the early 90s when I was going through school. Europeans often camped there & were perplexed that we only had garbage cans & lacked any recycling bins. I realized what backward barbarians we were!

  49. Helgi Briem
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:36 am | Permalink

    I cannot drink tap water for pleasure in the USA because of the chlorine flavour.

    I realise that residents can’t taste the chlorine after they get used to it and my son did after a few weeks of living in the USA.

    Even coke and coffee tastes of chlorine there. It’s pretty nasty for those of us who are unused to water that has to be treated this way.

    But of course I can (and have) drink it when I really need to.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:44 am | Permalink

      I notice this a lot with city water (the chlorine) and it can be especially bad in the summer if your water comes from the Great Lakes where algae bloom happens (at least in the big cities). This year has been good for no algae though. I get my water from a well but filtering the water through charcoal in the cities seems to make a big difference.

      • Matt G
        Posted August 29, 2014 at 10:49 am | Permalink

        Come to NYC. Delicious water right from the tap. No filtering necessary.

  50. Dave
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 5:46 am | Permalink

    People aren’t buying water: they’re buying the convenience of having water in a bottle.

  51. marvol19
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 6:40 am | Permalink

    I was going to state the only 3 situations when I drink bottled water, but as it happens

    “Now I can understand buying water if there are no fountains available (that’s rare in the U.S.), or if the local tap water is foul-tasting (as it was in Davis, California), or you’re overseas where the water may be injurious”

    This exactly covers them. No fountains = after airport security; I use spring water for my whiskey (the local water doesn’t taste great here but I use it for normal drinking anyway); and sometimes when abroad (St Petersburg was a good lesson).

    Saves me loads of money. And good for the environment.

  52. Posted August 29, 2014 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I’ve gotten to the point where I do feel somewhat guilty even buying a lemonade bottle. I do reuse them for water, but sometimes I want the fruit taste (or the sugar …) and hence by another. As for why people buy bottled water in the US, say – marketing.

    I did have a related question, though, if anyone knows. A colleague was encouraged to drink distilled water for a while before a thyroid exam, to avoid drinking any iodine. Does this make any sense? (I may have the story wrong, that’s why I wonder …)

  53. Scientfik
    Posted August 29, 2014 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    “In a single year, manufacturers around the world use about 2.7 million tons of plastic to bottle water. ”

    In my opinion the most troubling aspect of drinking water from plastic bottles is that new research suggests that plastic may actually be toxic to us, to the point of causing reproductive problem.

    http://onpoint.wbur.org/2014/03/06/plastic-health-safety-bpa

  54. Posted August 29, 2014 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Norbert Haupt and commented:
    Just yesterday at the airport in San Jose I bought a bread bowl with clam chowder and I wanted something to drink. I grabbed a bottle of water – I was thirsty. When I got only six dollars back for change to my twenty, I was surprised and looked at the receipt. I had paid $3.50 for a bottle of water.

    I can go to Target and buy a 24-pack for $3.80 or so. This is insane.

    And it is possible only because I am willing to pay. We all need to stop buying bottled water.


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