Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink ;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

The above is from the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge.  Ah, how horrible to be surrounded by a sea of water – salt water – and nary a drop to salve the parched throat.

But today, water is available in many “forms” – from the tap to the most beautiful bottles containing the liquid necessity.  But bottles are for babies.  Bottles are not for adults.  Bottles are not for the containment of water.  But the notion that bottled water is “pure” and tap water is, well, less than pure, has driven the sales of this precious liquid.

The truth is that bottled water is no better than tap water.  Of course, if we all acknowledged that and stopped buying those cutesy bottles, an entire segment of an industry would be decimated.  But if you really care about the environment and you don’t like to be duped, here are five reasons not to buy into the bottled water frenzy:

1.  Bottled water isn’t a good value

Take, for instance, Pepsi’s Aquafina or Coca-Cola’s Dasani bottled water. Both are sold in 20 ounce sizes and can be purchased from vending machines alongside soft drinks — and at the same price. Assuming you can find a $1 machine, that works out to 5 cents an ounce. These two brands are essentially filtered tap water, bottled close to their distribution point. Most municipal water costs less than one cent per gallon.

Now consider another widely-sold liquid: gasoline. It has to be pumped out of the ground in the form of crude oil, shipped to a refinery (often halfway across the world), and shipped again to your local filling station.

In the U.S., the average price per gallon is hovering around $3. There are 128 ounces in a gallon, which puts the current price of gasoline at fraction over 2 cents an ounce.

And that’s why there’s no shortage of companies which want to get into the business. In terms of price versus production cost, bottled water puts Big Oil to shame.

2.  No healthier than tap water

In theory, bottled water in the United States falls under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration. In practice, about 70 percent of bottled water never crosses state lines for sale, making it exempt from FDA oversight.

On the other hand, water systems in the developed world are well-regulated. In the U.S., for instance, municipal water falls under the purview of the Environmental Protection Agency, and is regularly inspected for bacteria and toxic chemicals. Want to know how your community scores? Check out the Environmental Working Group’s National Tap Water Database.

While public safety groups correctly point out that many municipal water systems are aging and there remain hundreds of chemical contaminants for which no standards have been established, there’s very little empirical evidence which suggests bottled water is any cleaner or better for you than its tap equivalent.

3.  Bottled water means garbage

Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away.

That assumes empty bottles actually make it to a garbage can. Plastic waste is now at such a volume that vast eddies of current-bound plastic trash now spin endlessly in the world’s major oceans. This represents a great risk to marine life, killing birds and fish which mistake our garbage for food.

Thanks to its slow decay rate, the vast majority of all plastics ever produced still exist — somewhere.

4.  Bottled water means less attention to public systems

Many people drink bottled water because they don’t like the taste of their local tap water, or because they question its safety.

This is like running around with a slow leak in your tire, topping it off every few days rather than taking it to be patched. Only the very affluent can afford to switch their water consumption to bottled sources. Once distanced from public systems, these consumers have little incentive to support bond issues and other methods of upgrading municipal water treatment.

There’s plenty of need. In California, for example, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated the requirement of $17.5 billion in improvements to the state’s drinking water infrastructure as recently as 2005. In the same year, the state lost 222 million gallons of drinkable water to leaky pipes.

5.  The corporatization of water

In the documentary film Thirst, authors Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman demonstrated the rapid worldwide privatization of municipal water supplies, and the effect these purchases are having on local economies.

Water is being called the “Blue Gold” of the 21st century. Thanks to increasing urbanization and population, shifting climates, and industrial pollution, fresh water is becoming humanity’s most precious resource.

Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water.

So the next time you peruse the bottled water isle in the grocery store, stop and think about just why you are adding it to your cart.  Is it to look “tres chique”?  Is it to – hmm, I guess there is no other reason.


About Charlotte A. Weybright

I own a home in the historical West Central Neighborhood of Fort Wayne, Indiana. I have four grown sons and nine grandchildren - four grandsons and five granddaughters. I love to work on my home, and I enjoy crafts of all types. But, most of all, I enjoy being involved in political and community issues.
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  1. Iceironman says:

    I have also thought about how the municipals put floride/flurine in the drinking water. We we all look British soon because of lack of floride for our teeth?

    Also, if many feel water is a basic right why am I paying for it????

  2. Honest Abe says:


    It’s called supply X demand = fill the need X capitalism. Personally, I don’t buy bottled water once or twice a week. I also have a well at home that produces better tasting water than the crap coming out of Fort Wayne’s water lines.

    The bottom lines is simple. People will continue to buy bottled water no matter what you or the other tree hugger’s claim.

    Funny, in doing your extensive research how did you leave out the fact that some companies are now moving towards packaging in commercially compostable plastic bottle manufactured from a 100% renewable resource called corn? The bottles degrade within 75 to 80 days.

    Just another green-spouting liberal with too much time on her hands.

  3. Alec says:

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Fort Waynes water Honest Abe. Of course people have the right to buy water, as I have the right to call out their stupidity for paying for something they can get for free.

  4. Honest Abe:

    Fort Wayne’s water quality has been excellent. I am not sure in which area you think it is crap, but you certainly must not be drinking from the same supply from which I drink.

    The only time I drink a bottle of water is if it is provided at a meeting. And, guess what, after the bottle is empty, I save it and fill it with – ta da – tap water. I make sun tea using saved plastic bottles.

    And, by the way, why is it because I take a position on something (which you don’t agree with) that I have too much time on my hands? You don’t know me, but perhaps you should take a look at when I posted this article – 12:37 a.m.

    I work a minimum of 50 hours a week, I take care of my home, and I am involved in several organizations. Time is certainly not something I have too much of. That is why my posts are done usually later at night.

    • Daniel says:

      Hello Charlotte,

      I applaud your scant use of bottled water and your reuse of the bottles, but you might want to reconsider using the bottles to brew sun tea.

      Many plastic bottles feature a compound called Bisphenol A (BPA), which can leech out of the plastic bottle and into the water if exposed to heat.

      I would think the bottles would be fine for reusing with just cold water, so long as they aren’t subjected to sunlight.


      • Iceironman says:

        Caution, reusing water bottles may lead to a disease know as liberalism. Indicators of the disease include, but are not limited to

        1 Beliving others cannot feed themselves
        2 others cant take care of themselves
        3 corporations are evil (even though they work in the corp environmnet)
        4 white males are evil
        5 religion has no role in America
        6 Fairness means redistrobution of wealth.

        If you experience any of these discontinue drinking tea from recycled bottles.

      • Daniel says:

        I believe none of those things.

        I do believe, however, that the health risks of consuming Bisphenol-A are valid, and that there is a reason these “evil corporations” are now making BPA-free products.

        Not many people are aware of the dangers of Bisphenol-A, and I just thought I would share.

        You seem like a really sad person.

  5. Alec:

    If I remember right, some time ago taste tests were done comparing the City’s water and some of the bottled brands. The City water won.

  6. Iceironman says:

    Damned if we do, Damned if we dont. The Govt wants us to be healthy, that leads to water over pepsi. Soon they will tax pepsi out of the market.

  7. Ice:

    Aren’t we supposed to drink 8 glasses of water a day? Our bodies are roughly 65%-70% water, so I would think water would absolutely be healthier for us than Pepsi. Of course, that doesn’t mean that people will drink water as much as they should.

    As to taxation, we already pay sales tax on pop and bottled water (for Honest Abe up there).

    And we do pay for water if we live in a town or city. So either way, we pay!

  8. Honest Abe says:

    8 glasses of water a day is a myth. Maybe you’ll believe this since it’s from NPR’s web site:

  9. Iceironman says:

    Is this what you want govt doing. Again, bottled water will be the alternative, which goes against your opinion.

  10. Parson says:

    I looked at getting one of those water filter pitchers at Target, they don’t seem to be that expensive, then you see you have to buy the filters extra and have to replace the filter every month.

  11. Honest Abe:

    I had already read about it being a myth. I guess that means that those who love their hoity-toity bottles of water, can save by not buying as much.

    I won’t have to worry about changing my habits since I don’t buy bottled water.

  12. Ice:

    Governments tax items all the time. It means that the alternative can be TAP WATER – not bottled water.

    There may be areas of the country where the water quality is poor, but Fort Wayne’s water is excellent. Why would anyone pay hundreds or maybe thousands of dollars a year to drink water from a bottle when you have a good source at your fingertips?

    It is pure marketing to convince the public that tap water is no good.

  13. Parson:

    I have never used a filter. I have always liked the taste of Fort Wayne’s water, so I guess I am not worried about the quality or content.

    Do you drink the City’s water?

  14. Daniel:

    Thanks for the advice. I will use something else for the sun tea. I will keep using the bottles for tap water.

Comments are closed.