Think Outside of the Bottle: Water Resources

 

News Flash: In the great debate about tap vs. bottled water, tap has been declared the winner by every environmental health organization that has researched the issue. Those experts weighing in say that the best quality drinking water comes from the tap–filtered, served fresh and transported in refillable metal-lined bottles.

Real or Faux H2O

Americans are heeding the message that healthy bodies need lots of water, to the tune of 26 gallons of bottled water per person last year. And so, while water has rightly become the nation’s No. 1 beverage of choice, most of us are probably getting it from the wrong source. 

“Bottled water generally is no cleaner, or safer, or healthier than tap water,” says Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit organization working to get us off the bottle. Hauter says research shows that the federal government requires rigorous and frequent testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water, whereas only 30 to 40 percent of bottled water is regulated.

Similarly, researchers at the Natural Resources Defense Council concluded that “If you are an adult with no special health conditions, and you are not pregnant, then you can drink most cities’ tap water without having to worry.” Why, then, the confusion?

“The bottled water industry spends millions of dollars a year to convince us that their product is somehow safer or healthier than tap water when in fact that’s just not true,” says Victoria Kaplan of Food & Water Watch.

Ironically, as much as 40 percent of store-bought water starts out as the same tap water that we get at home. Yet we continue to buy back these more-or-less filtered versions of our own tap water from packagers at thousands of times the price ($0.0002 per gallon from the tap vs. $0.89 to $8.26 a gallon bottled). Economist.com reports that last year Americans spent nearly $11 billion on 8.25 billion gallons of the store-bought stuff.

Yet Americans enjoy some of the safest municipal drinking water in the world. For even the most health-conscious among us, proper filtration at the tap will do the job. Barbara Hendel and Peter Ferreira, authors of Water & Salt: The Essence of Life, further suggest that steeping a handful of quartz crystals overnight in a day’s supply of home-filtered drinking water will revive its natural crystalline quality. The authors concur with those who warn against drinking distilled water, including that used in soft drinks, saying that it pulls electrolytes and trace minerals out of the body, increases acidity, and may open the door to disease.A Waste of Money
that Creates More Waste

The mounting case against packaged water is being led by environmentalists and consumer activists alike. TheGreenGuide.com reports that last year alone Americans collectively tossed 22 billion plastic water bottles. Less than 15 percent of them made it into recycling bins.

Making matters worse, “The plastic used in both single-use and reusable bottles can pose a contamination threat,” writes Solvie Karlstrom at www.TheGreenGuide.com. Debate currently rages over the safety of chemicals that are potentially leaching from the #1 PET and #7 polycarbonate plastics frequently used to package and store food products such as water.

There are also energy costs to consider. Research cited in Food & Water Watch’s Take Back the Tap says that the production of all that plastic drains 1.5 million barrels of oil a year. Transporting the product eats up more energy and creates more pollution. Eliminating this market would have the same effect as removing 100,000 cars from the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Adding insult to injury is the fact that each bottle requires nearly five times its volume in water to manufacture. “The whole bottled water industry just doesn’t make sense,” says Susan Leal, general manager of San Francisco Public Utilities, “when utilities all over the country spend millions of dollars to deliver clean, safe, affordable water right to the kitchen sink.”

The Case for Home Filtration

Home carbon filtration is a more earth-friendly solution at a fraction of the cost. Options include a countertop pitcher, faucet-mount unit, under-sink model or whole-house installation. Many filters are designed to remove trace chemicals and bacteria as well as chlorine. Whatever recommended filtration system we choose, health experts agree that the best containers are glass refrigerator bottles or portable, reusable aluminum-lined or stainless steel bottles.

Experts suggest first securing a Water Quality/Consumer Confidence Report from the local utility. Next find a filter able to remove the pertinent local contaminants among the 260 potential contaminants that a 2005 Environmental Working Group (EWG) assessment found present in the nation’s water supplies. It’s worth noting that the EWG analysis found nearly 100 percent compliance with enforceable health standards on the part of the nation’s water utilities.

In any case, the solution is to bring your own water rather than buy a manufacturer’s version. Choosing to drink home-filtered tap water protects our environment and our pocketbooks while keeping our bodies just as happy.

Water Resources

Source:
by S. Alison Chabonais

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