Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Water drinkers take back the tap

Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, Ore. has eliminated the
sale of single-serving bottled water.
Photo from the Ashland Food Co-op website, www.ashlandfood.coop 
I am as guilty as the next person of buying single-serving bottled water, usually upon an impulse because I was thirsty at the time and didn't plan ahead by carrying a reusable water bottle. Afterward, I try to obtain additional uses by refilling the bottle again, but I don't care for the plastic taste that leaches into the water.

Impulsive purchases of bottled water have been far less frequent since I escalated my efforts to carry a stainless-steel water bottle.

Reusable bottles are increasingly popular. At the Earth Day festival in Middletown this spring, I saw more than one vendor offering reusable water bottles for sale.

In comparison, I was dismayed last weekend to view a street-level mico-entrepreneur selling bottled water to passers-by in Berkeley. Why weren't more people carrying reusable water bottles?

I think that any EcoTourism promotion should include water bottle refill opportunities.

The Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, Ore. has eliminated the sale of single-serving bottled water and instead sells stainless steel water bottles that it allows buyers to fill at the store from the city's taps.

In its September/October 2009 newsletter, the co-op paraphrased members' suggestions as follows: "If part of your mission is sustainability, why do you sell bottled water? The companies that bottle this water abuse privatized water sources and drain natural aquifers. The plastic bottles add toxins to local landfills, as well as our bodies."

Water districts, especially, have a lot to gain by promoting the use of reusable bottles.

According to TakeBacktheTap.org, bottled water costs consumers 240 to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water and is less likely to be ensured for purity.

For drinkers who are ready to make the shift from bottled water to tap, www.FoodandWaterWatch.org offers advice on how to interpret a water quality report, how to choose a water filter and host a bottled water-free event. You can read more at www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/bottled/free-your-event-from-bottled-water/.

It's liberating not to have to pay what a retailer chooses to charge for the convenience of bottled water. TakeBacktheTap.org states that the price of bottled water ranges from 89 cents to $8.26 per gallon. In comparison, it states that most Americans pay about $2 per 1,000 gallons for municipal water service.

If you read the fine print on the labels on bottled water, you may be buying city water anyway -- but at a hugely marked-up price. Look for a disclaimer stating that the water came from a municipal source.

If I'm going to buy municipal water, I'd prefer to do so from the tap -- particularly if I  receive my water from a publicly-owned utility. I'm already paying for the water through my monthly rates, the water's purity is safeguarded through stringent government relations plus, as a ratepayer/owner, I have direct control over the utility by exercising my right to vote.

Can I claim to have that much control over the water I buy at the store in a single-serving container?

Published July 13, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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