Some of you may have seen reports about the residents of New York City being encouraged to ditch their addiction to bottled water and drink the municipal tap water instead.
Well, aways wanting to be on the pulse, the new edition of Sublime magazine hits the shelves in the next few days and it caries an article I’ve written all about the bottled water industry.
If you’ve not read a copy of Sublime before, then you’re missing out. It’s an ethically-led, bi-monthly international lifestyle magazine with some great content. Each edition is based on a theme, and this upcoming edition is all about our relationship with water.
Though I discuss the environmental impact of the bottled water industry in the article, much of the content is given over to a small group of independent producers who plough their profits into providing water for communities in developing countries. I had particular support from an inspirational business woman, Katie Alcott, the founder of FRANK Water
Here is a taster, to read the rest you’ll have to buy a copy of Sublime.
We are in love with bottled water. Since the 1970s, there has been an exponential growth in the consumption of this most pure and simple of consumables. In the last three decades, the volume of bottled water drunk annually worldwide has risen from one billion to 154 billion litres – and it continues to double every five years . .
Virtually odourless it may be, but with the multinationals on its scent, bottled water has become one of the most telling signs that we live in a consumerist world. It’s certainly convenient. Who hasn’t been sustained during a hot, humid day by a bottle of chilled water, grabbed from a strategically placed kiosk? It’s also marketed precisely to pander to our desire for a healthy life-style and concern for the environment. You can quench your thirst, have a sense of inner wellbeing, and satisfy your green conscience – marketing zeitgeist. Most of all, given that it can cost over ten thousand times more than tap water, it is pure decadence . . .
Inflated prices for what amounts to be nothing more than tap water should be the least of our concerns if we still desire the convenience bottled watered affords. Billions of litres of water require billions of plastic containers, of which, a mere 10 per cent are recycled. The vast majority end up in landfill. What’s more, it is estimated that some 22 million tonnes of bottled water are transported around the globe every year, equating to tens of thousands of tonnes of carbon emissions. Is it any wonder that Friends of the Earth have labelled bottled water, ‘environmental madness!’
Concerning as this may be, it is perhaps the exploitation of the resource itself that should cause us to reconsider our love affair with bottled water. Though we live on the ‘blue planet’, rising temperatures and a soaring population mean that drinking water is an increasingly scarce commodity. Many developing countries can ill afford the effect the commercial water industry is having on local water tables, sucking dry wells that have been used for centuries by communities to irrigate land, maintain livestock and supply drinking water to villagers. The stark reality is that the bottled water industry has a very real and present human cost. More often than not, it is those who have least access to clean drinking water that carry the greatest burden in order that we might live so indulgently.