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Bottled Water

By HHI Staff

Portable, convenient and carrying a product widely believed to be of peerless purity, individual bottled-water containers seem to be everywhere. And they are: Americans consumed some 50 billion servings in 2006, making bottled water the second most popular beverage behind soft drinks.
Bottled water is certainly a healthier choice than a sugary soda pop. When both personal cost and environmental impact are factored in, however, the case for this product becomes a lot less clear.


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For one thing, a perfectly fine alternative flows from your tap for next to nothing. The U.S. has one of the safest drinking-water supplies in the world. Filtration products costing as little as $20 for a simple pitcher, plus about $3 per month for disposable filters, are widely available to reduce or virtually eliminate certain chemicals, metals, parasites, and sediment.

Bottled water, on the other hand, is quite a bit more expensive. The half-liter bottle that costs $1 at the convenience store works out to nearly $7.80 a gallon – about 2½ times higher than gasoline prices that make many Americans wince and complain.

Filtered tap water is exactly what you’re buying when you choose two of the four top-selling major brands. Pepsico and Coca-Cola, whose products make up one-quarter of the bottled water sold in the United States, use reverse osmosis to purify municipal water at dozens of bottling plants throughout the nation.

The environmental costs start with the disposable plastic bottle itself. Americans recycle only about one-quarter of the plastic used to package bottled water. Thus, more than 1 million tons of water bottles end up in landfills annually.

Water is heavy – 8.3 pounds (3.8 kg) per gallon (3.8 l) – and so it takes a lot of fuel to run the trucks used to distribute full water bottles throughout the country. Look at it this way: A single case of half-liter water bottles sold in supermarkets weighs about 28 pounds (12.7 kg). Now, multiply that weight by 2 billion, representing a volume roughly equivalent to annual bottled-water sales. It takes a fleet of tens of thousands of tractor trailers to deliver that much water each year – water that can be delivered to taps everywhere at much lower energy cost by the pumps pressurizing municipal water systems.

The example above only covers the energy cost of delivering domestically produced water. Premium imported waters arrive at our shores aboard container ships, adding to the carbon burden.

Note: If you decide to filter your tap water and bottle it for portable use, stainless-steel containers are a good alternative to potentially unhealthy plastic.


More Info: NSF Water Fact Kit

Also: EPA's Ground Water and Drinking Water Site



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Bottled Water:  Created on June 4th, 2009.  Last Modified on November 9th, 2009


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