I’ve read similar stories before but yesterday’s piece, The real cost of bottled water, in the San Francisco Chronicle by Jared Blumenfeld and Susan Leal makes a strong and concise case why we should put away the bottles and keep our taps flowing. A few highlights:
San Franciscans and other Bay Area residents enjoy some of the nation’s highest quality drinking water, with pristine Sierra snowmelt from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir as our primary source.
Bottled water costs 240 to 10,000 times more than tap water. For the price of one bottle of Evian, a San Franciscan can receive 1,000 gallons of tap water. Forty percent of bottled water should be labeled bottled tap water because that is exactly what it is. But even that doesn’t dampen the demand.
The global consumption of bottled water reached 41 billion gallons in 2004, up 57 percent in just five years. Even in areas where tap water is clean and safe to drink, such as in San Francisco, demand for bottled water is increasing — producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy.
Most of the price of a bottle of water goes for its bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing, retailing and profit. Transporting bottled water by boat, truck and train involves burning massive quantities of fossil fuels. More than 5 trillion gallons of bottled water is shipped internationally each year.
Just supplying Americans with plastic water bottles for one year consumes more than 47 million gallons of oil, enough to take 100,000 cars off the road and 1 billion pounds of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, according to the Container Recycling Institute. In contrast, San Francisco tap water is distributed through an existing zero-carbon infrastructure: plumbing and gravity. Our water generates clean energy on its way to our tap — powering our streetcars, fire stations, the airport and schools.
Luckily, there are better, less expensive alternatives: In the office, use a water dispenser that taps into tap water. The only difference your company will notice is that you’re saving a lot of money. At home and in your car, switch to a stainless steel water bottle and use it for the rest of your life knowing that you are drinking some of the nation’s best water and making the planet a better place.
The one question I still have is how can you be sure that the water actually coming out of your tap is safe? It’s clear that the water running into the Bay Area is fantastic quality, but I’ve heard (from unreliable sources) that there are old asbestos pipes running through the city, and what about the old pipes running into my 1907 home? How much impact can those things have on the H2O coming out of my tap?