It’s dinner time on a hot summer day. And you have a choice of bottled or tap water to go with your meal. Which do you choose? Well, if you’re like most people in the developed world, you’ll go for the bottled water. After all, it seems safer, cleaner, and it costs money, so it must be better, right? Well, not necessarily. There’s actually more to bottled water than meets the eye.
First of all, it’s expensive. For example, Americans spend almost 12 billion dollars a year on bottled water. And global sales of bottled water each year are around 60 billion dollars. Ounce-for-ounce, that makes it more expensive than gasoline!
So for all that money, we must be getting something that tastes great, right? Well, not true. Blind taste tests prove that people cannot tell the difference between bottled water and plain tap water. And in some tests, people actually prefer tap water.
OK, so clearly bottled water must be healthier than tap water, right? While this is true in many areas of the world, in most developed countries, it’s often not the case. In one study, researchers found that bacteria levels were actually higher in bottled water than in tap water. Another study found that bottled water was no better than tap water from a nutritional point of view. Of course, both sources of water suffer from contamination from time to time, but tap water is tested more often and is more regulated than bottled water.
And then there’s the environmental issue. By drinking bottled water, the average American uses 167 plastic bottles of water a year. And that’s not all: to transport those bottles from factory to store uses a tremendous amount of fossil fuels. So we’re creating a huge environmental problem and spending billions of dollars to drink something that comes right out of the tap in our own homes for almost no cost.
Why? Lifestyle. Marketing. Ignorance. And it gets worse…
We in the developed world have a choice. We can turn our noses up at the tap water and spend money on bottled water whenever we want. But for many people in the developing world, access to water is a matter of life or death. They need clean water.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80 percent of illness in the world is caused by dirty water. And the simple act of getting clean water to drink takes a lot of time in some parts of the world. This is one of the main reasons that girls in some countries cannot go to school each day.
And guess what? For just a quarter of what we currently spend on bottled water, we could provide clean water to everyone on earth. Think about that the next time you reach for a bottle of water.