Bottled water

Smoky River Regional Economic Development

by Dan Dibbelt

I must admit, the thing in life that confounds me most, (well, okay there are few other things that confound me) is bottled water. I am not talking about the big five gallon bottles that many rural residents use, I am talking about the single serving bottles people buy by the dozens.

I have to say that I have always found tap water quite agreeable. Many of us will remember those hot summer days when cold water from the garden hose was almost as good as an ice cream cone. We didn’t care that the hose had been lying in a puddle next to the grass fertilizer, likely covered in insect repellent. It was wet and cold and tasted like water.

At school we would happily such the water out of the water fountain in the hallway, with little concern about the quality of the water or the cleanliness of the fountain itself.

I have tried a number of different water brands. Can’t say I can really taste the difference and it is actually not that surprising when you consider Coca-Cola has bottled Calgary’s public water under the Dasani brand for more than 15 years.

In the United States, about 45 per cent of bottled water also comes from municipal sources – that’s the stuff that comes out of your kitchen sink.

Sure, the bottlers may put the water through additional filtration systems. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily better for you. In Canada, 2.4 billion litres of bottled water was sold in 2014.

According to Health Canada, “Quality standards for bottled water and tap water are similar. Both bottled water and municipally distributed tap water that meet or exceed their required health and safety standards, are considered to be safe.”

The biggest advantage of tap water is that it is a whole lot cheaper than bottled water and a reusable water bottle can save consumers a lot of money. But the benefit of consuming tap water is also a benefit to the environment.

In America, more than 17 million barrels of oil are used annually in the making of water bottles. That is the equivalent of fueling 1.3 million cars for a year. The average American consumes about 167 disposable water bottles but recycles only 38 which equates to about 38 billion bottles being tossed out.

In addition to the oil used in the making of plastic water bottles, consider the amount of greenhouse gas emissions caused by the transport of all that water.

Sure, Dasani may only need to be shipped from Calgary, but Fiji Water actually comes from Fiji, Evian Water comes from the French Alps and Pellegrino comes to us from Italy. So, all of these examples need to be shipped across the ocean on a freighter first.

Now I certainly don’t want to make the life of the energy sector more difficult, but to me plastic bottles are an environmental hazard. Many cities have or are contemplating the ban of plastic bottles all together.

San Francisco has banned the sale of them from city owned property. Concord, Massachusetts has banned them and Montreal is considering a ban.

With our provincial government moving to a greener vision for the province, I’m not sure why they too are not looking at eliminating plastic bottles and in particular single serve water bottles.

Retailers could still sell water in coin operated machines that refill other bottles. People would truly need to recycle their bottles this way.

I appreciate many people would say, “Well, water is a better drink choice than other options,” and indeed it is. So, next time, bring your own bottle of water with you. We each have a water dispenser right in our homes.

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