Bottled Water Is Not a Blessing

Water is life, not a commodity in plastic called a blessing. North Carolinians and other planet residents are challenged to comprehend the degree to which we participate in the destruction of the Earth via its drying. How can we, advocates of nonviolence, see bottled water in any other frame than a justice issue of monumental proportions? Are we experiencing "drought" or a series of great "water extractions" or both?

In his article, "The Top Ten Reasons (Plus Three) Why Bottled Water Is a Blessing" (FJ July), Chuck Fager stated that he is "not clear how or why the anti-bottled water crusaders selected BW as the symbol for water problems." We challenge him to read the resources offered and rethink how convenience and profit play a role in crisis making via water extraction and/or water mining. Advertisements, such as you find at, might insult your municipality: "Next to alcoholic beverages, bottled water is the most popular beverage in the world. . . . Every year production, value of production and consumption worldwide goes up by fantastic leaps and bounds with no end in sight. Tap water quality is declining at a rapid pace. As governments struggle to provide even the most bare minimum quality standards of water to their citizens, there is an ever-growing demand for alternative drinking water sources. Is your company positioned to take advantage of these worldwide needs?"

When humans are persuaded to purchase for convenience, not necessity, aren’t we creating our own emergency? Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, discovered that his city would save $500,000 a year if it discontinued bottled water contracts. As Newsom summed up: "The fact is, our tap water is more highly regulated than what’s in the bottle. . . . We should not be consumed with the disposal of billions of pounds of plastic water bottles each year. Instead, we should be providing city employees and residents access to quality drinking water, regardless of their means" (Tara Lohan, ed., Water Consciousness, p. 69).

Kelle Louaillier, executive director of Corporate Accountability International, described bottled water as a "boutique industry" that has grown "into a $100- billion international juggernaut that is threatening public control over humanity’s most vital resource. As in much of the industrialized world, strong public water systems have been a cornerstone of national prosperity in the United States. These systems have generally been managed by local governments that are accountable to the public through the democratic process . . . assuring access to safe and healthy drinking water for almost all Americans regardless of their means." Louaillier continued, "It was unthinkable just three decades ago that a person would pay $1.50 for what they could have free at a water fountain or for virtually nothing at the tap. Drinking water was, simply, a public trust and a basic human right" (Louaillier, in Water Consciousness, pp. 59-60).

The following myths are shared from Water Consciousness, which contains essays from Bill McKibben, Vandana Shiva, Maude Barlow, Tony Clarke, Wenonah Hauter, and others. The "Top Five Myths about Bot-
tled Water":

  • Bottled water is cleaner and safer than tap water.(The Food and Drug Administration regulates 30 to 40 percent of bottled water sold across state lines. Plastic bottles can leach chemicals into the water. A 1999 survey of more than 1,000 spring and publicly sourced bottled water brands found that some violated state standards on bacterial contamination, and others were found to contain harmful chemicals such as arsenic.)
  • Bottled water is inexpensive.(Bottled water costs hundreds or thousands of times more than tap water.)
  • Bottled water tastes better.(A November 2007 poll by CBS News in Chicago found that two-thirds of the participants preferred tap to the bottled brand names or couldn’t tell which was which.)
  • Bottling plants are beneficial.(Groundwater levels have dropped by as much as 40 feet in Mehdiganj, India, home to a Coca-Cola bottling facility.)
  • Bottled water doesn’t negatively impact the environment. (U.S. plastic bottle production requires more than 17 million barrels of oil, enough to fuel 1 million cars. About 86 percent of the empty plastic water bottles in the United

Lib Hutchby

Lib Hutchby is a member of the Triangle Chapter of Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She lives in Cary, N.C.