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Tapping into the truth about bottled water

Bottled water is often billed as purer than tap water but it has a very dirty environmental footprint

In the face of statistical realities like one billion people worldwide being without a reliable source of drinking water and increased awareness about the need for water conservation comes H20m the “world’s first interactive natural spring water.” What makes H20m bottled water different according to the Los Angeles company is that it’s “infused with the power of positive energy through words music colours symbols and you.” In layman’s terms: they source spring water put it under ultraviolet light pump it in storage tanks play music outside the tanks bottle the water label it with words like Perfect Health and Prosperity and then surround the bottles with speakers playing “restorative compositions.” The water is supposed to inspire “positive thinking and positive energy for people and the planet.” Incidentally it’s also making H20m a ton of cash. Industry wide bottled water sales brought in $15 billion in the U.S. last year. Whether H20m’s water is really able to add positive vibes into someone’s drinking experience is hard to say — after all What the Bleep Do We Know? Regardless our distaste for tap water in light of such disparities is clearly hypocritical. And our preoccupation for perfecting our bodies’ internal environments is damaging our land air and water. Providing flavoured vitamin-enhanced oxygen-injected and positive-energy-packed water is an energy intensive process. Ultraviolet irradiation ozonation and reverse osmosis all require energy. For example reverse osmosis a process used to turn sea water into potable water is being used instead to further purify tap and spring water. The process takes hours and flushes away generally at least a quarter of the water put into the system as waste water. The plastic bottles used for packaging water just in the U.S. require over 47 million barrels of oil per year. Glass is no better environmentally. That’s because they weigh five times more than plastic bottles adding to the energy consumed during transport. Add that to the preparation of bottles like San Pellegrino’s glass bottles that are washed with up to two litres of mineral water for every one-litre bottle. After thirsty consumers are done with them four out of five plastic water bottles end up in landfills where they take thousands of years to biodegrade meanwhile releasing toxins like phthalates which are linked to health problems like increased incidence of allergies in children as well as hormone disruptions into the local environment. Such issues are beginning to provoke public debate. San Francisco has just enacted policy preventing any city department or agency from purchasing single serving bottles of water using city funds. All city sponsored events will not be permitted to serve bottled water. The commoditization of water has its proponents. Municipal water may contain fluoride and/or other unwanted additions making bottled water preferable. However focusing on purifying water for those that can afford it instead of clean water for all is ethically controversial. Peter Singer a philosopher from Princeton University has written extensively about the bottled water phenomenon. Bottled water to Singer is “a level of affluence that we just take for granted. What could you do? Put that dollar in a jar on the counter instead carry a water bottle and at the end of the month send all the money to Oxfam or CARE and help someone who has real needs. And you’re no worse off.”