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Bottled Water: Think Twice

PET bottle trash jamming ditches
water drop

In year 2000, there were a couple of conferences in Paris where I had to do some tea presentations. The water in the city is so very high in mineral content that no matter which tea I used, and what temperature I set the water, precipitations of tiny specks of black particles would be in the tea. It did not only look bad, but also tasted ashy and most of the times rough and dull. I had to seek help from the organizer who then introduced me to a bottled water company for providing ample supply of spring water (not mineral water) for free. They came in consumer size 450 ml bottles. The sheer sight of the big carton of empty plastic bottles that I left behind to the cleaning crew each day was a guilt in itself.

The few weeks before the next event in the city I was trying hard to connect with filtration companies, filter companies and the organizer to see if I could setup a system to use tap water with a filter to lower the mineral content. The physical setup was prohibitive so I ended up with large pile of PET bottles to recycle everyday, again. I thought I was a sinful person.

A Simple Filter for Good Tasting, Safe Water

Today, water filtration for home or commercial use is a very developed application and the choice of products, brands and services are not rare in any developed countries. The technology is still in rapid development for the need to satisfy a much better informed market, although it still needs to get more popular. Many people use bottled water not only on the move, but also at home.

I am not sure whether people have collectively lost faith in the local water works or whether the bottled water companies have collectively done a terrific job in converting the behaviour of the mass. The same thing that one can get at one-thousandth or less of the price is somehow replaced by the thing that costs more not only to the wallet, but also to the environment.

Bottled water consumption trend
Bottled Water Consumption Trend
Figures in vertical axis represent thousand million litres. The use of bottled water increased 3 folds between 1997 to 2011. As explained in later in this special feature, 2 litres of water is wasted for every 1 litre of bottled water. That means we are wasting six times more water for drinking than we did in 1997, on top of other environmental damages and wastage. Chart data obtained from 2012 Global Bottled Water Congress and Market Trends, Zenith International; and from Bottled Water Consumption by Country, 1997 to 2004, by Pacific Institute, The World's Water Project

What used to be the rights of the people for access to clean drinking water now seems to be conceding to the control of corporations. People pay big money to drink water.

Water commercialization is a huge topic and is not only about bottling water. I have no intention of presenting my points of view here, but let's just look at our daily need for water for making tea with, and as a basic hydration necessity, from a point of view of an individual in the developed world, who drink a lot of tea and a lot of water.

Bottled Water, an Illogical Consumption Behaviour

Paul drinking from fountain
My son Paul drinks from a fountain in a park. He was 8 at that time. Maybe you do not trust your local municipal government for monitoring the quality of water delivered to your home or such as in this case your public fountains. However, instead of escaping the issue by buying bottled water, maybe you can press for more effective governance for better utilization your tax dollar.

The technology to convert waste water into potable one in space projects and in adverse environments on Earth has been there for decades and trickled down to consumer use water filters, but the mass still need to be better educated that the local tap water is not only safe, but also good tasting with such a simple installation. So the world pays bottling companies huge amount of money (by buying bottled water from them) to drain, in destructive scales, springs and underground water beds, depriving local agriculture, environments and local populations of the resource that should have been theirs. On top of that we create huge carbon footprints to transport the products, and to manufacture, trash and recycle the hundreds of millions of plastic bottles used every single day. All these, for something that we could have got simply by turning on the faucet in the kitchen. <read on>


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