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Organic Consumers Association

Bottled Water's Shocking Impacts and the Growing Opposition

 Here are two stories that show the huge impacts of bottled water and the pressure the industry is receiving lately from consumers and officials.

Editor's Note:
We've been following the rising grassroots movement against the bottled water industry. And it looks like the hard work is paying off. According to one group working on the issue, "In May, Nestle reported that its bottled water profits had dropped, acknowledging 'criticism of bottled water' as a factor in decreased sales. According to Beverage Marketing Corporation, last year the U.S. bottled water industry experienced its slowest annual revenue growth in more than 15 years." Below you'll find two stories that show what's going on in the fight against bottled water.

Tap Has 1/100 the Impact of Bottled Water
by Graham Hill, Huffington Post

We have forgotten about our closest source of water at home -- the tap. Yet one of the simplest ways to reduce our environmental impact, to save money (not a ton...yet!) and to free ourselves from shopping and storage hassle, is by saying goodbye to bottled water. A life cycle assessment commissioned by the Swiss Gas and Water Association traced the entire life cycle from water extraction to serving it up in a glass.

Their findings showed that tap water has less than one percent of the impacts of un-refrigerated bottled water. Even when the tap water is refrigerated its impact is only one quarter of that of bottled water. These astonishing figures show that tap water is hands-down the greenest and most responsible choice.

The biggest impacts for bottled water come from the refrigeration, packaging and transport. Refrigeration also substantially increased the impacts of the tap water scenarios thanks to the energy consumed to power the fridge. Returnable bottles and jugs had lesser overall impacts when the distances for their transport were short. But as the distances increase, the higher weight glass bottles resulted in an "on the whole" higher environmental impact as compared to the PET bottles.

This reminds us that transportation plays a big role in the impacts of bottled water, more so than even packaging in this case. The origin of the water causes the biggest impact and so the distance between the bottling site and you must be as short as possible to reduce impacts -- this is a pretty hard factor to control as a consumer. Hear that Fiji? When that distance is short, then returnable bottles become a viable alternative. As the distance gets bigger, the returnables cause more impact because of their higher weight.

Packaging (something tap water has none of) is also a problem when you look at the environmental impacts of bottled water. The Earth Policy Institute tells us that 17 million barrels of oil are used annually to meet American demand for bottled water. That's enough to fuel more than 1 million U.S. cars per year. Almost 2.7 million tons of plastic are used worldwide to bottle water each year while 90% of those end up in landfills. And to think that for the most part, we don't even need bottled water at all.

That's an enormous amount of waste for water that has no real added health benefits. If you do choose to hydrate yourself via the bottled stuff you will be causing almost 100 times more impact than if you fill your cup from the tap. Not all tap water tastes the same, but the truth is that tap water is actually more strictly controlled by the Environmental Protection Agency than bottled water is by the Food and Drug Administration. If you really can't stand the tap try a filtered jug at home or a filter for your faucet.

Convinced yet?

Here's the second piece.

Attorney General Slams Nestle's Bottled Water Aspirations
by Tara Lohan, AlterNet

As many of you already know, we've been covering the situation in McCloud, California where food and beverage giant Nestle is trying to build a massive water bottling plant there -- much to the dismay of the majority of local residents.

Now Nestle has got even more opposition.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. warned Nestle that "California will challenge the environmental plan for a bottled water plant in Siskiyou county if the company does not revise its contract to pump water from the McCloud River."

Here's what a statement from the AG's office said:

"It takes massive quantities of oil to produce plastic water bottles and to ship them in diesel trucks across the United States," Attorney General Brown said. "Nestle will face swift legal challenge if it does not fully evaluate the environmental impact of diverting millions of gallons of spring water from the McCloud River into billions of plastic water bottles," Brown added.

Although Nestle publicly offered to reduce its annual water take to 195 million gallons of spring water per year -- enough to fill 3.1 billion 8-ounce plastic bottles -- the company has not yet agreed to change the terms of its contract with the McCloud Community Service District. The current fifty-year contract permits the company to draw 520 million gallons of spring water each year and also to pump unlimited amounts groundwater.

 ...Brown also said the environmental analysis fails to consider the global warming impacts of producing and transporting millions of gallons of water including: greenhouse gases from producing the plastic bottles; electrical demand for the project; and the diesel soot and greenhouse gas emissions from truck trips.

 Attorney General Brown has asked the County of Siskiyou to revise its environmental impact report and circulate a new draft of the environmental impact report.

This is just the latest in a round of setbacks for Nestle, which announced recently that it would scale down the size of the plant.

The pressure groups who have been fighting Nestle on the issue had many accolades for the AG, as expected.

One of the main groups involved in the issue, Food and Water Watch, applauded Brown's announcement and added, "In the worst cases, Nestle's water grab ruins streams, ponds, wells and aquifers. And in all cases, Nestle's practices raise serious questions about who should be allowed to control water, our most essential resource, and to what end. Will corporations like Nestle or the communities that rely upon this most essential resource for their health, livelihood and well-being control water resources?"

Stay tuned as we continue to cover McCloud's fight against Nestle.

© 2008 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.View this story online at: 

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post Aug 13 2008, 05:01 PM

I am NOT drinking nasty tap water. I have a water filter at home but on the road will buy bottled. Is there another solution for travelers?

post Aug 13 2008, 05:25 PM

QUOTE (CYHS @ Aug 13 2008, 06:01 PM) *
I am NOT drinking nasty tap water. I have a water filter at home but on the road will buy bottled. Is there another solution for travelers?

Yes, as far back as 1989 we were selling portable water filters from NSA (National Saftey Associates). You can google "portable water filters" and find lots of info on them.

post Aug 13 2008, 06:41 PM

Don't reuse water bottles for long, because bacteria can grow and make you sick later. But you can buy some plastic bottles made of denser plastic (or glass containers) for long-term, and take your own filtered water with you. Get bottles with big enough mouths that you can clean them thoroughly with a bottle brush. Provide your own bottled water in re-useable bottles. I would think this an obvious solution. And get big containers for travelling, and refill your small hand-held container from the big one. I went all the way to Tijuana from Portland, OR last year, and in CA, where the water was awful, I refilled my big bottles from grocery store water dispensers when I ran out. But much of the trip, I used Portland tap water, which is WONDERFUL. I hate spring water, so buying bottled is tough unless they have bottled drinking water. And refilling at those water-filling stations at the grocery store is also better than buying little bottles. If your tap water (other readers, obviously) has fluoridation, use filtered water, that stuff's poison. But you don't have to buy unre-useable little bottles, with a little effort on your part.

post Aug 13 2008, 09:03 PM

I try my best to travel with my own water, but then again, I travel by car so I can take 3 gallons of water in glass from my well with me most far places I go (which is not often). For car travel around town, I bring my own in glass.

But I think that you should re-evaluate what you think of as bad tasting. Bottled water is not just bad for the environment with its shipping, packaging or pumping of local ground water & streams. It is bad for your body, your cells and your health.

Bottled water (or bottled soda, beer, etc...)are in soft plastic bottles, when they get heated, even a bit, say in a hot truck in the middle of the day, or when they sit on a shelf in a storage room at your local store, and also in your car (no matter if the bottles were "cold" when you bought them)... The bottles are leeching cancer causing, endocrine disrupting and Estrogen mimicking chemicals into the liquids they hold.

So You are poisoning yourself when you drink from most any plastic container. They say that those new hard plastic bottles are better. Better than what is what I ask. Glass is the best, metal is second and after that, I think I just usually pass by any other options.

post Aug 13 2008, 10:45 PM

This "attack" on bottled water boggles my mind. When I am in a convienence store, standing along the long wall of PLASTIC bottled drinks, I am quite sure the water section isn't even taking up 1/4 of the space. Was this instigated by a soda pop coalition?

Granted, folks really should not be grabbing one of those small bottles everytime they are wanting a drink of water. As others have stated though, I will not drink my tap water. I know where it comes from....PCB's from General Electric, farming run-off, flouride to name a few. I would really rather not even be showering in it! Not to mention, how long has the water coming from my tap been contaminated before that boil order gets put out?

post Yesterday, 03:10 AM

<< I will not drink my tap water >>

These are the silliest comments I think I have ever seen on this site. At at least though, the comment << I know where it comes from....PCB's from General Electric, farming run-off, flouride... >> indicates some of the fears behind the attitude.

Unfortunately, as expressed in the article, bottled water is less controlled than tap water, and comes from the same sources. So levels of PCBs, fertilizers and pesticides are going to be at best identical, and at worst much higher in bottled water, because no one is monitoring it. And I have seen many admitted flouride-containing bottled waters too.

And I can remember many people years ago not drinking bottled water because of its taste. Taste is a matter of habit. Growing up on bottled water makes one like its taste. Growing up on tap water makes on like its taste. Unfortunately many people were duped into becoming hooked on the taste of expensive (yet oh so cheaply produced) consumerized water containing added and leached chemicals.

So considering the health and environmental issues with bottled waters, the soda companies (who produce the bottled water) have definitely done a great disservice with their great marketing job.

post Yesterday, 08:12 AM

How about installing a reverse osmosis system to your tap water? It takes out just about everything. I've priced them at around $600 (plus about $15 every six months for a new filter). For those who drink bottled water, you'd probably make up the cost in less than a year. And you could buy a reusable bottle (ones that are safer than plastic) for travel purposes.

post Yesterday, 08:31 PM

"These are the silliest comments I think I have ever seen on this site. At at least though, the comment << I know where it comes from....PCB's from General Electric, farming run-off, flouride... >> indicates some of the fears behind the attitude."
...Is actually THE MOST RIDICULOUS THING I'VE EVER HEARD. Why don't you peruse my cities water quality report, then keepyertrapshut about how tap water is better than bottled. Here's the link:
Notice how we have high nitrates, trihalomethanes, haloacetic acids, insufficient amounts of chloramine (disinfectant), then persuse the unregulated contaminants. Oh, and let's not forget almost 2% total samples positive for coliform. THIS IS TAP WATER, buddy. You come on down and drink the crap. I'll keep buying bottled water.

post Yesterday, 08:34 PM

And here's the report...

post Today, 09:22 AM

I buy alkaline spring water in 5 gal refillable polycarbonate bottles....I have assays from the bottler....I take a 5 gal bottle with a dolphin pump when I travel by car....I pump it into glass bottles...I NEVER drink tap water due to contaminants, most particularly fluoride....and as for RO water, it takes a lot of energy (electricity) to make the stuff and also creates a waste stream....not very green....

Organic Jen
post Today, 11:17 AM

Buy a Sigg or Klean Kanteen reusable water bottle! They are wonderful and are aluminum. Plastic bottles contain BPA which is receiving a lot of bad press now due to the leeching out of this chemical overtime that occurs by using plastic long term.

To take water while traveling, buy big glass bottles of apple juice or cider (organic, of course), save them up wash them and put your home water in them. They may weigh a little more than plastic, but you avoid BPA and you are reusing an item some people might throw away, rather than recycle (sigh).

The solution appears when we think about it rather than run out and buy something. Learn to think like your grandparents did during the Great Depression, use what is on hand rather than run to the store.

Other frugal tips can be found by reading any of the "Tightwad Gazette" books by Amy Dazcyzn. She is simply awesome!