During this time of economic troubles, people across the country, regardless of political affiliation, are asking the government to cut wasteful spending. While average citizens tighten their belts, however, D.C. lawmakers have been preaching about cuts to spending on education, law enforcement, healthcare, and more- without mentioning their little drinking problem. Considering that they are responsible for the funding and maintenance of public water systems, if those systems are deemed good enough for you and me, shouldn’t they be good enough for them?
Now, were this a third-world nation where sanitation issues left our water undrinkable, this excess could probably be excused. However, in a great many cases, bottled water isn’t actually better than what comes out of your tap… it’s worse.
Spring water is water that flows naturally to the surface of the earth from an underground formation. As such, it can still contain traces of leachates, and agricultural or industrial runoff. Drinking water can still come from a municipal water supply, and, chances are, it will say so right on the label- in much smaller print, of course. As long as it is for human consumption, in a sanitary container, and has not had any sweeteners or chemical additives added to it, it can be labeled “Drinking water.” Purified water is generally municipal water that has undergone additional treatment, whether deionization, reverse osmosis, or distillation, to improve the aroma, flavor, clarity, and color of the water. Purified water is also widely available at refilling stations in grocery stores. A local grocery store near my own home has water that draws from the municipal supply, then undergoes carbon filtration, reverse osmosis, and UV light treatment. It is perfectly colorless, odorless, and doesn’t taste plastic when drunk. The best part? It’s fifty nine cents a gallon to refill your container.
Then comes the issue of bottles. Although recycling programs are becoming more widespread in the U.S., most plastic water bottles will still end their days in a landfill. Furthermore, plastic bottles have also been shown to leach harmful chemicals like Bisphenol A, a known disruptor of the endocrine system that can cause breast and uterine cancers, lowered levels of male sex hormones, and affect infant brain development. Luckily, there are now endless varieties of reusable bottles, from BPA-free plastic, to Klean Kanteen’s stainless steel version, to this silicone-sleeved glass bottle by Lifefactory. The head of D.C.’s water provider has even offered free reusable water bottles for each member of Congress- a much cheaper, easier, and cleaner solution for them, and for us.
Water distribution worldwide has also been an increasing problem, even in the U.S. Rivers, lakes, and other surface waters are suffering the deleterious effects of industrial runoff, littering, and erosion, while mining practices like “fracking” (short for Hydraulic Fracturing, a process that fractures rock to stimulate oil and gas wells) threaten groundwater and aquifer formations. Considering this, why would anyone want to continue what essentially amounts to a waste, instead of consuming clean, readily available local water?
My family and I have made the switch from bottled water to cleaner, cheaper, refillable containers to help save money and cut waste in our own home. Shouldn’t our government do likewise?