Thursday, June 2, 2011

Bottled Water

As any of you who know me and my wife will know we use reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water.  I recently watched "Blue Gold: World Water Wars" and "Flow: For Love of Water". I had never considered where the water in bottled water comes from.  Some of it is city tap water (without the chlorine and fluoride) and most of the rest is either "mineral water" or "spring water".  Mineral water is only tested for the levels of 13 minerals, less than 1/4 as many as tap water.  The "spring water" is never sourced from an actual spring.  To call it spring water there has to be a "natural" upwelling of water from the ground.  But they don't bottle what comes out of the ground, they sink wells and pump water that "would have eventually come from the spring.  The problem is that they can place the wells over a mile from the source, even in a different drainage, but still claim it as "spring water".

This is very harmful to the local ground water.  Some of the companies mentioned in the movie have over 70 brands of water, one for each region.  And an average plant can pump 300,000+ gallons of water every year. That may not sound like much, a medium sized river may take anywhere from a minute to an hour to move that much water, but this is not coming from a wide basin like a river, it comes from an area often under 1 square mile.  To put that in perspective it would drop the local ground water by up to an inch per year.  That does not seem like much, but when you consider that the local residents are already using the ground water at or beyond capacity, and that these plants keep pumping even during drought this can quickly become feet.  Causing local wells, streams, and rivers to dry up or become too salty to use.

Bottled water has less than 1 person in the federal government regulating it!  That means in addition to other duties one person has to look after a 10 billion dollar industry.  Up to 1/3 of bottled water has, when tested, failed to meet the safety standards of tap water.  That is because there ate NO standards for safety with bottled water.  Tap water on the other hand is regulated by the EPA and state and local agencies.  Tap water is tested daily, while "Mineral" water only has to be tested once a year (whenever the owners think it will pass the test is fine), and spring water does not have to be tested for purity.  When bottled water failed testing it was for items ranging from bacteria, arsenic, lead, aluminum, salt, nitrites, perchlorate, carcinogenic man-made chemicals, etc...  Though most water bottles don't use BPA, but that does not mean that there is not an equally dangerous chemical in them.  Plastics companies don't have to release what is in their plastics, since it is proprietary.   It was over a decade after BPA was banned in Europe that it hit the news here.  What other dangers are in plastic that they know about, but won't tell us about?

We know that the plastic bottles are polluting our land and rivers, and can cost over 1000 times more than tap water, but they are also stressing ground water supplies.  In some areas agriculture is pumping 15 times the recharge rate of groundwater. We don't need to  further burden our precious ground water, a  resource that is available to the whole community, with large corporations pumping it and us dry.  How would you like it if a large company moved into your area, pumped the streams and ponds dry, and then wanted to sell you the water back at $2.00 for a liter, or if you buy smaller bottles over $10.00 per gallon!

In short don't buy bottled water.  Buy a reusable bottle and fill it at home or work.  If your tap water taste bad install a filter, it will be safer and cheeper than bottled water.

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