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Do You Need Bottled Water?

By: Kathryn Senior PhD - Updated: 30 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
Bottled Water Environmental Costs

Bottled water has become a sort of fashion accessory during the last few years both in America and Europe, where the water that comes out of the tap is extremely clean and safe. It has become the thing to do in the office, on public transport, in the car, in the nightclub, shopping and just about anywhere, to have a bottle of water clutched in one hand. The most expensive brand names are the best. But do we really need water out of a bottle and at what environmental costs are we paying for drinking water with style?

Circumstances that Make Bottled Water Useful

If you are in a region of a country where water quality is poor, or there is an interruption to your water supply, bottled water is invaluable. Many people who holiday abroad choose bottled water to avoid stomach upsets caused by changes in water. Turkey, for example, has water that is very high in minerals and cannot be easily tolerated. Even the people who live there drink water out of bottles – out of necessity.

If it is very hot and you are walking a long way, carrying water is very sensible but, in the UK, it is fine to carry bottles of tap water that have been chilled or even frozen before you set out, so they defrost and remain cool for several hours.

The Costs of Bottled Water

The costs for the consumer are not that much compared to manufactured drinks. But this is only water. To produce bottled water needs a great deal of energy – nearly 2000 times more energy per litre than producing tap water. In countries like the UK and the USA, the quality of tap water is excellent, and drinking it causes no health problems, so it could easily be dispensed with.

The sheer volume of bottled water means that the energy consumption adds up; between 2001 and 2007, consumption of bottled water in industrialised countries increased by something approaching 70 per cent and about 0.033 per cent of all the energy used in the USA today is spent on bottling water. In the USA, each person drinks about 110 litres of bottled water each year – that is half a litre on most days of the year.

Fashion and Bottled Water

We do many things because of fashion and sipping a bottle of water has been linked with many celebrities. Although water is good for you, and dehydration is bad, the current obsession with bottled water is not really helping to increase healthy habits. Many people who sip bottled water will happily eat burgers and chips at the same time!

The other fashionable trend is to regard bottled water as somehow sacred. Kabala water is favoured by celebrities such as Madonna, who is reported to have spent thousands of GB£ having Kabala water put into the radiators in her London home.

Can we do Without Bottled Water?

If you care about the environment, it is perfectly possible to live without bottled water. It has no health benefits over tap water in the UK. If you prefer your water to be sparkling, environmentalists suggest that you buy a soda stream. This very unfashionable small appliance was bit in the 1970s and is set to make a come -back among the environmentally conscious. By purchasing the machine for a relative small cost – about £25 – and then reusing it to pump carbon dioxide through chilled water, it can create sparkling water and fizzy drinks from fruit juices very economically. As these do not contain as much sugar as commercially produced drinks, they can be healthier too.

If you can’t do without your bottled water, you could try refilling water bottles with tap water and chilling in the fridge and using them within 12 hours or so. You can still look like you have expensive bottled water can reduce the overall cost of the water, both to you and to the planet.

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