Top 5 Myths About Bottled Water Debunked!
Myth #1: Bottled water is healthier and purer than tap water.
The idea that all bottled is purer is nothing but marketing hype. It is generally no cleaner, safer, or healthier than tap water. According to the National Resource Defense Council bottled water is not safer – the federal government requires far more rigorous and frequent safety testing of municipal drinking water than bottled water. Only one person in the FDA oversees all plastic bottle regulation. FDA’s rules completely exempt 60-70 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States from the agency’s bottled water standards because FDA says its rules do not apply to water packaged and sold within the same state.
City tap water from surface water must be filtered and disinfected (or the water system must adopt well-defined protective measures for the source water it uses, such as control of potentially polluting activities that may affect the stream involved). In contrast, there are no federal filtration or disinfection requirements for bottled water – the only source-water protection, filtration, or disinfection provisions for bottled water are completely delegated to state discretion, and many states have adopted no such meaningful programs. This water comes from an excellent source in the Sierras and travels to EBMUD treatment plants where it is further processed to ensure the water meets regulatory standards under the Safe Drinking Water Act before it reaches our taps. EBMUD has an extensive water quality program that protects water quality in the watersheds and reservoirs, securing future water quality and high-quality drinking water that meets or surpasses all state and federal regulatory requirements.
Myth #2: Bottled water is from different sources than tap water.
False. Bottled water companies don’t want you to know that as much as 40 percent of bottled water is repackaged tap water. Why pay all that money for something you can get for next to nothing?
Myth #3: Tap water is rarely tested.
Regardless of the energy and funds spent protecting public water, trends in the United States indicate that bottled water sales are rising across the country. Cities generally must test at least once a quarter for many chemical contaminants, while water bottlers generally must test only annually. By comparison, hundreds of federal staff and many more state personnel are dedicated to tap water regulation. At UC Berkeley, tap water is distributed to the campus by the East Bay Municipal Utilities District (EBMUD). In 2010, EBMUD water met or surpassed every public health requirement set by the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Myth #4: Bottled water isn’t that much more expensive than choosing tap water.
The National Resource Defense Council estimates that people spend from 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they typically do for tap water. According to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, “In San Francisco, bottled water is at least 300 times more expensive than tap water (SFPUC sells water for around $.003 per gallon).
Myth #5: When buying plastic water bottles, the only negative result is plastic waste.
Sustainability Engineer and MBA Pablo Päster conducted a thorough and exhaustive study of the cost of bring a liter of Fiji Water to America. He started with the production of the bottle in China, taking the bottle blanks to Fiji, and confirming that it takes more water to make the bottle than it actually holds. He then transported the bottle to the States by ship. Not even including the distribution in the States, the numbers are absolutely staggering. In summary, the manufacture and transport of that one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumed about 26.88 kilograms of water (about 7 gallons) .849 Kilograms of fossil fuel (one liter or .26 gal) and emitted 562 grams of Greenhouse Gases (1.2 pounds).
Not only does it take an estimated 17 million barrels of oil per year to make the plastic bottles, but also the average energy cost for a bottle of water (including the production of the bottle, transportation, and disposal) is equivalent, according to Peter Gleick, director of the Pacific Institute, to “filling up a quarter of every bottle with oil.” It even takes 3-5 liters of water to produce a single liter of bottled water, and in the case of imported water like Fiji, it takes around 7. Since it’s estimated that only 20 percent of the bottles are recycled, that means 80% end up in landfills or are incinerated. Meanwhile, there is now an area double the size of Texas in the Pacific Ocean that’s essentially a whirlpool of plastic, and in every square foot of the Pacific between California and Japan there are plastic bits. There are now even beaches of plastic sand.
There are many reasons why you should choose tap water over bottled water. For starters, making the plastic for all those bottles and transporting the finished product consumes energy and pollutes the environment. Worldwide bottling of water uses about 2.7 million tons of plastic each year; about 86% of empty plastic water bottles end up in the garbage, rather than being recycled. Tap water however, is delivered through far more energy-efficient means, costs hundreds or thousands less than bottled water and is just as clean and healthy as bottled water.
Credit: Ally Beach, UC Berkeley “Take Back the Tap” Campaign Coordinator