Go back the Dark Ages, say the 1970s.
Do you ever remember people carrying bottles of water with them wherever they went? Today people take bottled water everywhere — when they’re driving, into stores, into meetings, into class, and even when they are walking down the street.
And I’d venture to say they are like the woman on Powers Avenue I saw on Monday who was slightly swinging a half liter bottle of Crystal Geyser water as she walked. They are not putting tap water in reusable bottles. Instead they are spending a young fortune on bottled water.
But before we talk about how much this is costing, ask yourself one question: What is different about 1972 and 2016 that makes us think like camels? Granted the extra water we carry around is external but the point is we weren’t water pack mules 44 years ago.
There hasn’t been a significant drop-off in public water fountains although they do hold a clue. There is a perception that drinking from a public water fountain is akin to mainlining viruses.
If that’s the case, why — given the explosion in bottled water consumption — aren’t there corresponding declines in a whole array of maladies from the common cold to strep throat?
Could it be we’ve bought into the subtle campaign that what comes out of our taps is not healthy?
Granted there are aberrations such as in Flint, Michigan, that is a specific problem tied to specific aging pipe material and a specific mismanagement of the system. But by and large people around the globe die every day because they don’t enjoy the high level of quality that Americans do when it comes to water flowing from our taps.
Wait, you say, there’s arsenic in our water. The City of Manteca sends out information saying that’s the case. Here’s a new flash: Arsenic is naturally occurring in water and soil. Human bodies, as a result, will always have trace amounts. The issues start when arsenic consumption reaches a certain level. The federal government — which mandates water providers such as the City of Manteca to inform customers of what’s in the water they consume — establishes a threshold that even if it is met or exceeded slightly still doesn’t pose danger to human life. That said, Manteca’s arsenic levels are significantly below the federal threshold.
You will notice there is no such breakdown on bottled water labels. So you assume the water is “therefore” safer to consume than tap water.
Guess again. All water bottlers are required to provide statements of water quality for consumers you can typically find on their websites. The bottom line of those reports are the same — they do not exceed the Federal Drug Administration’s maximum containment limits. That’s true also of Manteca’s municipal water. The big difference is the federal government requires municipal water providers like Manteca to send customers a recap of all minerals and such the FDA requires water to be tested for while private sector bottlers just have to make the report available on request. Imagine what it would do to bottled water sales if every place they are sold a large sign had to be posted with test results that show how many parts of various items are in the water you are buying including arsenic. It would probably put a severe dent in sales.
And there is a lot of sales to dent.
Bottled water sales in the United States exceeded $14 billion in 2014. It is the same year the International Bottled Water Association noted 17 major American cities including New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and San Francisco had reached the point where water was the No. 1 selling packaged beverage in stores.
The ConvergEx marketing used national averages to determine Americans pay $1.22 for a gallon of water bought in stores or delivered to their home. That’s 300 times more than what we would pay to drink the same water from a tap. But since two thirds of purchased bottled water is consumed is from bottles consisting of 16.9 ounces or less, the real cost difference is almost 2,000 times higher.
As Americans we spend $43.75 per capita each year for bottled water when we could easily spend less than $1 if we used reusable water bottled filled with tap water.
Yes, I buy bottled water, two cases a year to be precise. I take them as back up that I leave in my Escape when I go on extended week-long hiking trips. Rarely do I touch the bottles that I then use for the next six months as “back up” when I’m driving around.
I use a water “bladder” in my hiking pack that’s filled with tap water. When I jog to the gym I refill the same bottle that I’ve been using now seven days a week for close to three years. I might add that I’ve cleaned neither the bladder nor the water bottle.
Does the water taste funny? No, and quite frankly even if it did I’m not going to complain if I’m up in a canyon seven miles from where I left my Escape in Death Valley.
Has it gotten me sick? No.
The phobia we have with germs is amusing given exposure to an imperfect world helps our body build defenses. It is the entire rationale behind flu and polio vaccines among others.
I’m not dead yet even though for the past 60 years I’ve been drinking water from the tap and even — horror of horrors — from garden hoses.
One thing is for sure. I’ve avoided spending $1,800 or so on bottled water.