Fortunately very few people in Europe, North America, Oceania, and large parts of Latin America and Asia actually would need to buy bottled water. Sadly many actually do it.
Tap water is of good quality in Brazil, so we drink it when we are in a village or city. When we are not we easily have access to filtered water because here in the Amazon is common that families have a ceramic filter, a simple system that really works. In the rest of the cases we use our own filter, a Katadyn Pocket (http://www.katadyn.com/).
Why do people buy water in places such as Europe or USA???. To me that is a mistery that talks straight of the superstition and stupidity prevalent in our societies.
1-To start with, bottled water requires huge amounts of energy to arrive home: transportation (mostly trucks), fabrication of the plastic bottles, packaging etc..Tap water arrives in a much more efficient way, through already existing pipes that connect the closer water sources to the cities.
2-Don´t get fooled: PET bottles and other plastic bottles are mostly not recycled the way some people may imagine. In most cases there is not such thing as reusing the bottle, the material is recovered and downgrades in the process of being reused as another product, so new bottles require to be made with new raw materials all the time.
Also I have the feeling that many of the bottles are not even recovered, as proved by the huge amount of bottles we found in the roadsides and rubbish dumps all over the world.
3-Bottled water is expensive, it often even compares with the petrol in price. That is crazy, it is a non-sense.
4-Often the companies (Coca cola, Pepsico, Nestlé...to name some big ones) are just bottling tap water!!!. (you can google for example the Aquafina case). A nice (for their publicists) photo of the Alps or a waterfall try to hide that very fact. You don´t believe that?. Just check this great info (http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/qbw.asp ).
5-Bottled water is even not necesarily healthier than tap water in the USA, as shown by a study from the Earth Policy Institute that you can find cited here ( http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/02/0224_060224_bottled_water.html ).
So we pay taxes to treat our water and to get it transported by pipes to our homes, and then when we are so lucky to enjoy such an incredible resource we decide to waste our money, contaminate the planet and made some cheating companies rich. Cool.
Our municipalities guarantee us that the water they provide us is drinkable (we pay for that!!), but it seems that many don´t believe in those guarantees or just don´t care. I suggest that sceptics or fashion victims could just be on the safe side by filtering their tap water, just in case.
There are great filters out there, and their cost per litre makes them really inexpensive. Even our Katadyn filter, which is designed for expedition/outdoors and is therefore made to be light and extra sturdy, renders guaranteed water for less than 0.01 € per filtered litre. The cost would drop down probably to one tenth of that with bigger sized water filters for home. Just check it out. I would not buy bottled water, at least if it comes in a plastic bottle of any kind.
Photos: Asa using our katadyn filter in a small stream at the Andes. We may have used it more often in less appealing places (hotel rooms, public bathrooms, restaurant kitchens), but somehow I prefer to take pictures in a nicer place :)
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