August 7, 2007

Love the Taste -- Hate the Waste!

I’ve been a fan of tap water for years. I guffawed and grumbled when we moved to Mississippi and started buying big bottles of water and a cooler. But water pipes In Mississippi don’t have to be buried so deep to escape the frost line like they do in Nebraska and the Dakotas – so my ready supply of cold tap water was no longer available. I became a consumer of the cooler.

By the time we moved to Pennsylvania (ah, back to cold tap water) we’d started using filtered water pitchers in the refrigerator.

Along the way, a related phenomenon began. Bottled water started popping up on store shelves. And we started buying it!

Having grown up in the 40s and 50s, we had water on the playground at school, in the park, at the was everywhere – and it was free!

More importantly, it was safe and clean. Oh, Karen would sometimes complain that the water was too hard – too many minerals in it – making it less than ideal for laundry and something of a nuisance when it would eventually clog the insides of water pipes.

Still, I have difficulty comprehending that we Americans would pay cold hard cash for a small plastic bottle of water. It is so universally abundant in the United States, and yet -- about one billion people on the planet (1 of every 6) do not have a reliable source of drinking water.

Thankfully, recent revelations about the bottled water industry have jolted my sensibilities and rejuvenated my appreciation for tap water.

Americans pay through the nose to manufacture plastic bottles, ship them to the island nation of Fiji in the South Pacific, have them filled with water, then shipped back to the United States! Next to sugar and tourism, water may well be Fiji's greatest export since Vijay Singh hit the golf circuit.

Pepsi-Cola’s recent admission that its “Aquafina” brand of bottled water comes from public water taps was – for many of us – not a surprising revelation. Public water supplies have always been closely regulated, while the bottled water industry has enjoyed barely a nod from federal regulators. At least the folks at Pepsi have fessed up to their deeds and promise to re-label the product with a forthright statement about the source of their water.

A growing number of opponents to the bottled water industry cite the enormous energy required to provide bottled water – and they point to the burgeoning problem of landfills, parks, and other public places that are laden with empty bottles. I believe they’re right. Kudos to the mayors of San Francisco and other cities who’re leading the charge.

I plan to return to the days of yore – drinking more water from a glass. I’ll probably keep a plastic bottle or two at the ready for biking and traveling – filled with fresh, clean, safe water…..from our kitchen tap!

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