keeping it all bottled up

Perhaps the finest testament to the power of marketing and distribution is the fact that I regularly buy bottled water.

In case you don't know, bottled water is an incredible scam. I used to help out with running a water company when I was a kid, so I got a good background in the stringent set of requirements that utilities must meet when providing drinking water to a community. Generally, bottled water doesn't have to meet standards that are anywhere near as tightly regulated in regards to contaminants, filtering, or purity. Not to mention the fact that waterwhich stagnates in plastic containers on supermarket shelves frequently has a higher bacteria count than water from public utilities.

Hell, some of the springs, especially the springs from which imported bottled water is drawn, are polluted and tainted in ways that would be unacceptable for any utility in the United States. And bottled water almost never has the benefit of fluoridation, meaning that families that drink bottled water at home are denying their children the potential increased protection against tooth decay.

But you can't just hate bottled water because it's dirtier and less beneficial than tap water. The real problem is that it's usually somewhere between 100 and 1000 times as expensive as tap water. And it's not enough that you are paying a few orders of magnitude more for a lesser product, many of the companies selling it to you are being disingenuous about it, as was thoroughly discussed on snarkout some time back. Two of the leading water products, the ones sold by Coke and Pepsi, aren't even spring water. They're filtered tap water. Like you can get from a water filter at home. Like the water they use to make... Coke and Pepsi. You pay about the same as you do for soda, but you don't even get the sticky sugary syrup and carbonation.

So that's the triumph of the bottled water industry. Distribution. Bottled water is, I'll admit, convenient. You can get it in places where your only other choice would be soda or the use of a public drinking fountain, with its usual attendant ickiness. But bottled water, of course, generates more trash than tap water. Even using disposable cups with tap water typically generates less than half the trash of a plastic water bottle.

What's my point? I'm not sure, other than that I'm hoping the public discussion of the stunning inadequacies of bottled water acts as a reminder to myself not to support the bottled water scam. We're incredibly fortunate to have the robust, generally reliable clean water supply that we have in the United States. Indeed, when the Croton River water works that supplies New York City's water supply was completed more than a century and a half ago, the celebrations in the city lasted for weeks on end. And water supplies in most of the rest of the world are so unreliable that fresh water is more valuable than any other resource. I truly believe that potable water will be the source of as much violence and conflict in the future as crude oil has been in the recent past.

So, enjoy the water we have. Drink up. Just don't bother buying it in bottles when you can get it so much cheaper and better at home from your tap.

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