When the first bottled water appeared on grocery shelves, we all fell about laughing. Who would be idiot enough to pay for water when they can get it for free at home?
Well now the joke’s on us. After years of relentless marketing, supermarkets devote whole aisles to bottled water. Customers line up to pay and wheel out cases of the stuff with sheep-like obedience. The big corporations rub their hands in glee. That have actually convinced the population that water they pay for is somehow better than water freely available at home.
The profits are huge.
In the past 30 years, the consumption of bottled water in America has been boosted from just over a gallon to 30 gallons person even though the cost of that water averages 2000 times the cost of tap water in their home.
How’s that for a triumph of persuasion!
Now that we have been successfully trained to choose bottled water, I can’t help but suspect we are being quietly prepared for a time when our sources of water will be corporate owned and we will all be forced to pay for the one thing none of us can live without. Call me paranoid if you want.
Public drinking fountains are disappearing, forcing thirsty people to buy a drink. At meetings where there used to be glasses and a jug, there is now a row of water bottles. Characters on TV and in movies no longer run a glass of water to drink but reach for bottled water, modeling commercialism for the watchers, making bottled water the norm. Guests are automatically offered bottled water instead of a drink taken from the tap.
Yet water is the one substance that should NEVER be sold. It is given to us freely by nature and belongs to all of us. It is our birthright. It makes up 65% of our body. It is the very stuff of life, not a product. Without water, we could not survive for more than three days. If there is any cost associated with water, it should be service charges for treatment plants, reservoirs, infrastructure to bring water to us. Never for the water itself.
A glance at the facts is hair-raising. Millions of barrels of crude oil go into the manufacture and transport of the 29 million bottles of water Americans buy. If you want to grasp how much oil it takes to make one bottle, imagine a bottle one quarter filled with oil. All these bottle create a horrendous, and totally unnecessary, pollution problem. Only about 13% of them are recycled. The rest disfigure our shores, choke seabirds to death and cram our landfills. They take centuries to to decompose and give off toxic fumes when incinerated.
In Canada, the average family buys 1000 bottles of water per year. That’s at least a $1000 out of their budget they could be spending on hockey gear, music lessons or a joyful family vacation in one of our national parks.
The kicker is that bottled water is often inferior to tap water which is subject to far more rigorous standards. In fact, about 40% is tap water slapped into bottles with fancy labels and sold to the credulous. A good percentage has contaminants beyond health regulations, not to mention the hormone-disrupting chemicals leached out from the plastic container. Millions of gallons are shipped in from other places such as Europe and Fiji, using up precious nonrenewable resources and sucking up someone else’s water supply.
So my reaction when offered bottle water is, “Yuck! No way.” Let’s all do our best to protect nature’s life giving gift by keeping our money in our pockets and vowing that never again will bottled water touch our lips.