It has been a while since I last wrote something here, but now school has returned to normal, consequently meaning more updates. In class this week, we watched a documentary called “Last Call at the Oasis”, informing us about the water crisis in the world. “What water crisis?” some might think. Even though it is not visible for everybody, we are running out of clean water for people to use without a proper solution to the problem. This documentary can be seen as an independent continuation of the film about Erin Brockovich, that I wrote about here. Not only does it bring up the same problems on a global scale, Brockovich also has a central role.
“Last call at the Oasis” is a documentary focusing on, amongst other subjects, the usage of bottled water. In America it has become a 4 billion dollar a year- industry, nurturing on people’s mistrust in the water cleansing systems and fear of drinking polluted water. It has come to the level where millions of people are willing to pay between 240 and 10 000 times more per gallon for the bottled version than for tap water. The question is: is bottled water that much better than tap water? And is it smart to stop drinking water from the tap?
Drinking bottled water is in tally with drinking clean water and is, therefore, a way of securing a healthy population. Or is it? When the water is known to be contaminated, drinking it from a bottle seems like a better solution than exposing yourself to a potential threat. However, there are several studies which show that bottled water is not necessarily better than tap water. For instance, an article in the Guardian states that “One in five French bottled waters contain drugs or pesticides”. Despite the levels being minuscule, it ruins the illusion that water from a bottle is totally pure and safe. These findings have been backed up by research done by NRDC (the Natural Recourses Defense Council). Out of 1000 bottles, approximately one fourth of the brands were contaminated at levels violating the Californian state limits. Furthermore, almost 1/3 of the water tested exceeded a state standard for level of bacteria or chemical contamination. In other words drinking water from a bottle, which has become almost a trend, is not as clean and good as people might think. In addition, it draws the attention away from the real problem, which is contaminated drinking water.
Furthermore, if everybody choose to drink water from a bottle, the cleansing systems will be ruined. The 4 billion dollars which are used in America on bottled water every year would be much better spent at maintaining the water cleansing systems, as well as finding new, better ways to draw chemicals out of the water. If people stop drinking water from the tap, there will be no or little reason to improve the system. Consequently, people might have to buy water for showering and brushing their teeth. If the public water systems suffers from rust on old technology that might happen in the future. Therefore, the money is much better spent on finding new solutions. On the other hand, recycled water on a bottle can be a good short- term alternative to making people step out of their comfort zone and get used to drinking it. If that works, it will be a sustainable way of using, and reusing, the limited water resources. The best solution would therefore be to find a balance between drinking bottled water and tap water. However, there are many places where the water is so contaminated with for instance hexavalent chromium that there is no other choice to drink bottled water if the economy allows it.
To summarize, drinking water from a bottle, rather than from the tap, is not a good long-term solution. Not only is it expensive and not as clean as one might get the impression of, if many follow this development, there will be no need to repair the water cleansing systems. However, the case is not just black and white. In some places the water is so polluted that drinking it will be a danger to people’s health. Furthermore, giving recycled water on a bottle to the population can be a good way to introduce something which most people are uncomfortable with. Yet, these are both short- term alternatives, as we have to focus on a finding new sustainable ways of using water and cleansing it. We simply cannot all drink bottled water.
Do you have any thoughts on this subject?