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Bottled Water: Is it worth it?


vhilts
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I thought of this thread while I read this New York Times Op-Ed Article (I hope the link works):

"Bad to the Last Drop"

By TOM STANDAGE

[...]despite its association with purity and cleanliness, bottled water is bad for the environment. It is shipped at vast expense from one part of the world to another, [...]then kept refrigerated[...], and causes huge numbers of plastic bottles to go into landfills.
[...]I have no objections to people drinking bottled water in the developing world; it is often the only safe supply. But it would[...]be better if they had access to safe tap water[...]. The logical response, for those of us in the developed world, is to stop spending money on bottled water and to give the money to water charities.[...]

Standage also states that most people can't taste the difference between bottled and tap water, and that the safety of tap water is more tightly regulated (it's understood that he's referring to "developed" countries at that point in the article).

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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I don't know if it has changed much, but when I lived in San Diego in the mid to late 1980s the water was so bad that it was brownish red out of the tap. Everyone bought bottled water and there were bottled water stations outside of every grocery store and many other stores.

Where I grew up, near Tacoma, Washington the water from the tap was excellent. I don't think anyone drank much bottled water there.

Edited by Maria (log)
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I thought of this thread while I read this New York Times Op-Ed Article (I hope the link works):

"Bad to the Last Drop"

By TOM STANDAGE

[...]despite its association with purity and cleanliness, bottled water is bad for the environment. It is shipped at vast expense from one part of the world to another, [...]then kept refrigerated[...], and causes huge numbers of plastic bottles to go into landfills.

Of course Mr. Standage is correct. But soft drinks, beer and wine are also bad for the environment for the same reasons. Why pick on water alone? Does he think that bottled water is somehow a less worthy drink than Coke or Bud Light?

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Of course Mr. Standage is correct.  But soft drinks, beer and wine are also bad for the environment for the same reasons.  Why pick on water alone?  Does he think that bottled water is somehow a less worthy drink than Coke or Bud Light?

Exactly. Or bottled juice, Snapple etc. - the list is endless. And perhaps Mr. Standage does not live in or frequent communities like mine where people are conscientious about recycling? I recycle every single plastic container that my municipality will accept and if I drink from plastic bottles outside my home I make every possible effort to find a recycling bin for the empty or bring it home to recycle it.

Bot now I once again live in a town where the tap water tastes pretty damn good if it's cold and very, very good if it's filtered through a Britta and chilled. I occasionally buy a new large and a new small bottle of water at the store when the bottle I'm currently reusing gets groaty but the majority of my "bottled" water is filled by me at home from a Britta.

Coke claims to add minerals to Dasani

I'm sure they do. Aquafina tastes so totally flat to me that it's almost unpleasant to drink. Dasani is not great but will always do in a pinch.

And I suspect that the cost to Coke or Pepsi for producing a bottle of water vs. producing a bottle of soft drink is almost identical. How much does it really cost for the amount of coloring, flavoring and HFCS that goes into a bottle of soft drink? Not much I'll bet.

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I've had Fiji, and it's very good, and Trinity is even better. I also agree that you can taste the difference among bottled waters--lots of people like the taste of Poland Spring, I don't; I'd much rather buy Ephrata Diamond Spring if it were still around--but I happen to live in a city that has a pretty good water supply. Philly ought to; after all, this is the home of America's first water works (Fairmount Water Works, 1816), and the city fathers took pains to protect the quality of the water coming from the Fairmount Water Works by buying the land along the banks of the Schuylkill and the Wissahickon Creek within the city limits and turning it into parkland. Alas, industrialization outside the city polluted the Schuylkill, and the Fairmount Water Works closed in 1911 in favor of treatment plants that filter the water (Philly has very little chlorination).

Most of the off-taste that people complain about in "Schuylkill Punch" (actually, the bulk of the city's water comes from the Delaware) comes from the 100+-year-old pipes through which it runs. Put it through a Brita filter, refrigerate it, and it's as good as almost any spring water you could put it up against.

Unfortunately, my Brita pitcher broke and I haven't replaced it since.

Edited by MarketStEl (log)

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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  • 4 weeks later...
I don't know if it has changed much, but when I lived in San Diego in the mid to late 1980s the water was so bad that it was brownish red out of the tap.[...]

Well, at least in Hotel Circle, it's a lot better. Granted that I arrived after a heavy monsoon with flooding had recently subsided, but the tap water was quite alright, though nothing special.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Poland spring if I have to buy something. Although I do find Dasani acceptable (yes, it is not spring water). Some of the worst tasting waters are the expensive one (e.g., evian). Is it me or does evian taste a bit off. I can't put my finger on it. Volvic's very similar as well. Rather drink tap water.

My father's been lugging 10 5 gallon tanks out to the blue ridge mountains for the past 8 years. He gets the water from a spring that's apprently tested regularly by the park service (least that what he says). Really great water, first because it tests great and second its free.

I then go to tap water.

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  • 1 month later...

My favorite bottled water is Dasani. My least favorite by far is Evian. It has a horribly flat taste that makes me want to gag.

I drink at least eight, 8 ounce glasses of water per day. At work, I drink Deer Park from the water cooler and that suffices. At home, I mainly drink tap water filtered through my Brita pitcher.

I live in NYC and our tap water is pretty darn good. My parents (who recently moved to Delaware) are experiencing "water" shock. The water in Delaware is just awful...it tastes like chemicals coming out of the tap and even smells funny. As a consquence, they drink nothing but bottled water now.

Here's a funny story: My aunt (born and raised in NYC, but moved to Delaware as an adult) went on a bus ride with a group of her Delawarian friends to Canada. The bus made a stop in NYC at a restaurant where the group dined. The waiter filled their water glasses and after drinking, a number of people in the group commented on how tasty the water was. They asked the waiter what kind of water they were drinking. He replied, "tap water." :)

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Local Tap. Filtered. From the fridge.

I used to work for a restaurant here in Vancouver that has taken a very political 'fish-conservation' stance. We would only serve sustainable aquaculture, and urged other restaurants to do likewise. All the seafood either came from the wild where the species were not endangered or from responsibly-run fish farms. Really a fantastic policy.

Irony was that we were serving Voss water, artesian water from the glaciers of Norway. So we were filling planes in Norway with heavy glass bottles of water, burning fossil fuels to get the water over an OCEAN and then trucking the water across a CONTINENT so that the greenhouse gasses burned in the process would heat up the earth a bit more, eventually melting enough of the glaciers in back in Norway to fill another planeload of water in heavy glass bottles...

I don't see any eco-friendly sustainability here. Always wanted to bring this up with my guests. Never did.

I think that if you gotta drink bottled water, than we should try to drink water that has been bottled locally. Luckily here in Vancouver we've got great tap water and I now work in a restaurant that has an industrial water filter. I make a point of trying to 'sell' the local (free) filtered water. My daily little stab at sustainability.

Bob McLeod

VOX BACCULUS HIC VADIS IN VITRIO JUBILIAM

The road goes on forever and the party never ends

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I didn't realize this until Penn and Teller pointed it out, but Evian spelled backwards is naive. Just a coincidence, I'm sure, but I always thought Evian tasted much worse than plain old tap water and wondered why anyone would pay so much for it.

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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Local Tap.  Filtered.  From the fridge.

I used to work for a restaurant here in Vancouver that has taken a very political 'fish-conservation' stance.  We would only serve sustainable aquaculture, and urged other restaurants to do likewise.  All the seafood either came from the wild where the species were not endangered or from responsibly-run fish farms.  Really a fantastic policy.

Irony was that we were serving Voss water, artesian water from the glaciers of Norway.  So we were filling planes in Norway with heavy glass bottles of water, burning fossil fuels to get the water over an OCEAN and then trucking the water across a CONTINENT so that the greenhouse gasses burned in the process would heat up the earth a bit more, eventually melting enough of the glaciers in back in Norway to fill another planeload of water in heavy glass bottles...

I don't see any eco-friendly sustainability here.  Always wanted to bring this up with my guests.  Never did. 

I think that if you gotta drink bottled water, than we should try to drink water that has been bottled locally.  Luckily here in Vancouver we've got great tap water and I now work in a restaurant that has an industrial water filter.  I make a point of trying to 'sell' the local (free) filtered water.  My daily little stab at sustainability.

Bob, this post rules. Cheers!

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Local Tap.  Filtered.  From the fridge.

I used to work for a restaurant here in Vancouver that has taken a very political 'fish-conservation' stance.  We would only serve sustainable aquaculture, and urged other restaurants to do likewise.  All the seafood either came from the wild where the species were not endangered or from responsibly-run fish farms.  Really a fantastic policy.

Irony was that we were serving Voss water, artesian water from the glaciers of Norway.  So we were filling planes in Norway with heavy glass bottles of water, burning fossil fuels to get the water over an OCEAN and then trucking the water across a CONTINENT so that the greenhouse gasses burned in the process would heat up the earth a bit more, eventually melting enough of the glaciers in back in Norway to fill another planeload of water in heavy glass bottles...

I don't see any eco-friendly sustainability here.  Always wanted to bring this up with my guests.  Never did. 

I think that if you gotta drink bottled water, than we should try to drink water that has been bottled locally.  Luckily here in Vancouver we've got great tap water and I now work in a restaurant that has an industrial water filter.  I make a point of trying to 'sell' the local (free) filtered water.  My daily little stab at sustainability.

I didn't realize this until Penn and Teller pointed it out, but Evian spelled backwards is naive. Just a coincidence, I'm sure, but I always thought Evian tasted much worse than plain old tap water and wondered why anyone would pay so much for it.

Touché on both counts! Bravo!

Joie Alvaro Kent

"I like rice. Rice is great if you're hungry and want 2,000 of something." ~ Mitch Hedberg

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but I always thought Evian tasted much worse than plain old tap water and wondered why anyone would pay so much for it.

depends on your tap water... some water doesn't taste better with filtering.

Never mind that there are whole towns in Canada that have to get their water trucked in for everything. I was just listening to a program on the radio about a town in my province that has NO running water. Now, I doubt they're selling a lot of high-$$ water in places like this - but the point is that there are places where the local water source just isn't drinkable.

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What drives me nuts is that I work in a fine dining restaurant with six or so bottled waters including voss, pellengreno, etc, and people pay $6 for the liter bottles, and only drink half, waste of money, one for paying for water, two for not drinking said water. also kinda cool because I usually snag the half empty bottle and drink the rest. :cool:

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but I always thought Evian tasted much worse than plain old tap water and wondered why anyone would pay so much for it.

depends on your tap water... some water doesn't taste better with filtering.

Never mind that there are whole towns in Canada that have to get their water trucked in for everything. I was just listening to a program on the radio about a town in my province that has NO running water. Now, I doubt they're selling a lot of high-$$ water in places like this - but the point is that there are places where the local water source just isn't drinkable.

Your point is well taken.

I'm sure there are places on earth, such as Somalian refugee camps and some south american shanty towns, where the tap actually tastes worst than Evian. Thank goodness such places are exceedingly rare.

Edited by Patrick S (log)

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced" - Vincent Van Gogh
 

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I'm sure there are places on earth, such as Somalian refugee camps and some south american shanty towns, where the tap actually tastes worst than Evian. Thank goodness such places are exceedingly rare.

I was thinking more along the lines of my hometown...

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I'm sure there are places on earth, such as Somalian refugee camps and some south american shanty towns, where the tap actually tastes worst than Evian. Thank goodness such places are exceedingly rare.

I was thinking more along the lines of my hometown...

Winnipeg?

The Red River is that brackish?

The city can't afford a decent treatment plant?

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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The Red River is that brackish?

The city can't afford a decent treatment plant?

We don't actually drink water from the Red, which is good.. by the time it flows through Winnipeg it's not exactly sparkling clean .. Winnipeg actually means 'muddy waters' ... our water comes from Shoal Lake (part of Lake of the Woods) near the provincial border. this site goes into some of Winnipeg's water issues.

here are a couple of quotes from the site (winnipeg.ca)

There was unanimous endorsement that there is an identifiable risk to public health with the present water supply system.
The implementation of treatment works would improve the aesthetic quality of the water. While this does not appear to be a major public issue, several hundred complaints are typically received annually by the utility relating to taste and odour, dirty water, etc. A filtration system would significantly improve the aesthetic quality of water.

I've filtered my tap water - it still tastes pretty terrible to me. Though many people are probably fine with it - I want my water taste clean, and it doesn't taste clean to me.

edited to add that they seem to be building a new water treatment plant - I'll let you know in about 2 years if the water tastes any better.

Edited by Pam R (log)
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I've filtered my tap water - it still tastes pretty terrible to me.  Though many people are probably fine with it - I want my water taste clean, and it doesn't taste clean to me.

Last summer, I noticed right off the bat that the tap water in Winnipeg was pretty horrible. We had a lot of out-of-town guests for a few days, and they also noticed not just the horrible taste, but also the smell. None of them would drink it. We use a Brita filter (on-tap, not the jug) and it helped substantially. But this was the first time I've ever used bottled water on a regular basis.

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Is imported bottled water really flown in? Why would air freight be favoured over the much less expensive and less ecologically disruptive maritime transport?

I usually drink filtered tap water, the water in question coming from the St. Lawrence river. When I think about this, I get a little nudgy. I still remember one of my biology profs in university — a limnologist, I believe — saying he'd never drink Montreal tap water, seeing as how the river is the drainage channel for the sewage, industrial and agricultural waste from the entire Great Lakes watershed as well as the Outaouais river with its many pulp and paper mills. Recent reports about fish and amphibians downriver from major cities being affected by the psychotropic, hormonal, antibiotic and other drugs excreted by city residents also give cause for concern.

When I buy water for home, it's usually sparkling and often Badoit, whose carbonation is less aggressive than most, including Perrier and San Pelligrino. When buying still water for consumption while away from home, I prefer Évian, which tastes closest to the best water I know: that from a swift-running, rock-filled mountain stream.

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