Amy Goodman, whom I love and respect, is reporting on this meme going around lately that bottled water is evil and stupid. Evil, because it consumes resources and creates waste and stupid because it is economically silly to pay 7000 times more for something than you have to.
I think this is mostly true but I also think it misses some very important points:
1. It’s better that people are buying water than buying soda. A bottle of water is healthy and a soda is unhealthy. We don’t seem to have a problem with people paying $1.29 for a Coke, but for some reason we see it as a waste of resources to provide a healthy alternative. The expensive part of getting me a cold bottle of water out of a vending machine is the bottle, putting it in the bottle, getting it nearby and keeping it cold and readily available. Getting a drink of water, for free, in downtown Minneapolis is not convenient nor probably sanitary. It’s my decision if I want to pay for the convenience of nearby, cold, purified water.
2. Aquafina, and most bottled water, is processed with reverse osmosis. This is a very cool process that make for very pure water. It is no big deal at all if they use tap water as the input into the reverse osmosis machine. The water produced by reverse osmosis is vastly more pure than the tap water going in.
I drink filtered tap water at home. I drink filtered tap water at work. I don’t mind buying a bottle of filtered tap water every now and then for $1.29. I think there are downsides of the water boom and we should put pressure on governments and companies to provide pure water ubiquitously for free. We should make all distribution processes, whether for water or Coke, as environmentally efficient as possible. That’s obvious.
There are problems but they are solvable. We should not necessarily be upset that people are willing to spend money on convenient, purified drinking water instead of just buying another Coke.