Raise a toast to tap water

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Today’s hot weather will have lots of people thirsting for a cold drink of water. They’ll be doing the Earth a favor if they get that water from a tap or fountain instead of a plastic bottle.
The $4 billion-a-year bottled water industry projects an image of purity and health, but that’s not how things add up. Much of the bottled water Americans buy, such as Dasani and Aquafina, is nothing more than tap water. What’s worse, the packaging and shipping that go into distributing bottled water are bad for the environment.
And you thought you were doing a good thing.
First, water is bottled in plastic that is usually derived from crude oil, polyethylene terephthalate or PET. That’s one anti-environmental strike. Then, diesel-burning trucks carry them to market, strike two. And finally, the majority of the 30 billion single-serving bottles Americans buy a year find their way to landfills, strike three. As an alternative to sugary drinks or juices, bottled water is a considerably healthier choice. But as an alternative to tap water, it’s an extravagance รณ one that fills half an aisle in some supermarkets.
Think of the thirsting people of Africa, to amend a familiar phrase. While Americans pass up safe and easily available tap water for water that comes in an attractive bottle, about a billion people around the world lack access to clean drinking water altogether. The water we let run down the drain while brushing our teeth is, on average, as much as a person would consume all day in several undeveloped nations, including Ethiopia, Somalia and Uganda.
As usual, we Americans have it better than we realize. We take our safe drinking water for granted. Bottled water may have its place, but the water you can get from the tap is a precious, high-quality commodity. Value it.