February 21, 2012

Mardi Gras = Water Fountain Celebration

Happy Fat Tuesday!  Given the elevated levels of liquid consumption today I thought a beverage topic would be good.  Today's post is about bottled water.

We are fortunate in the United States to have abundant supplies of freshwater (in most areas of the country) and a safe and widespread system of distribution that allows us to have clean water in our homes for drinking, cleaning, gardening, and many other uses.  Despite the cheap and clean water distribution system present, bottled water sales have skyrocketed in recent years and in 2007 8.82 billion gallons of bottled water were sold in the United States, and 47 billion gallons worldwide.  On a per capita basis, that's about 285 12 ounce bottles per American per year.

In order to help conserve natural resources, and save money, I think it's a good idea to opt for tap water rather than bottled water.


Following are a few reasons I think it's usually a better idea to enjoy water from the tap.

1) Cost - Per this EPA article, drinking 8 glasses of water a day will cost you about 50 cents per year from the tap.  From bottled water the same amount of water will cost you around $1,400.  My own estimate, based on a cost of $10.73 for a 24 pack of 16.9 ounce bottles comes to a grand total of $620 for the year. Calculation noted below - if anyone knows how to easily add tables to Blogger I would definitely appreciate some advice.

(16.9 ounces per bottle x 24 bottles per case = 405.6 ounces per case.  8 glasses x 8 ounces per day x 366 days per leap year = 23,424 ounces per year.  23,424 ounces / 405.6 ounces per case = 57.75 cases needed per year.  57.75 cases x $10.73 per case = $619.67 total cost)

Either way, the cost is far higher for bottled water than tap water.  Additionally, you will have to pay to refrigerate the bottles.

2) Landfill impact - According to the International Bottled Water Association, a bottled water industry group, 30.9% of plastic water bottles are recycled each year.  Using the estimated amount of bottles from the EPA article noted above, that means the average American would send 285 bottles to the landfill each year. Additionally, this recycling rate is from a group organized to promote bottled water usage, so other estimates of the recycling rate are much lower.

3) Incidental costs - Production of water bottles for the U.S. market is estimated to use 17 million barrels of oil annually.  There are 42 gallons in a barrel of oil, so that amounts to 714 million gallons of oil.  In addition to the production of the bottle, there is also the cost to transport the bottles from factories to stores, from stores to homes, cost to refrigerate, and the cost to transport to landfills or recycling centers after use.  Since the majority of bottles are not recycled there is also the cost to cleanup those bottles not directly put into the trash stream, and the landfill maintenance costs for those that do end up there.

4) Bottled water may be tap water anyway - According to the above linked EPA article, over 25% of bottled water is from a municipal water source, the same place that tap water comes from.  Even the esteemed John Stossel has called out bottled water on this point.  It's from 2005, but still pretty entertaining and to the point.

Suggested action steps:

1) Don't purchase bottled water.  This is assuming you are not in a disaster area or developing area without safe water sources.
2) If the taste or quality of your tap water is not up to snuff, install a water filtration system or purchase a water pitcher with a filter (Brita is one brand).
3) Enjoy

1 comment:

  1. Documentary: Tapped. Find it on Netflix. I haven't watched for some time but everyone should at least once.