Following up on the fable of 'The Ant and the Grasshopper' I cannot help but think of the wasteful attitude of the latter. Well, today, many people in many developing countries seek out clean drinking water with much difficulty just like little ants try to store food for the winter because they know food will be scarce as water is scarce in many regions of the world. But developed nations such as the US and Canada behave like grasshoppers spending billions of dollars to buy bottled water even though their respective countries provide clean drinking water from the tap or are making considerable effort to do so. Our water is envied by many in the world and yet we prefer buying commercial water. I think people need to be made aware of some basics facts that may help them understand the implication of not supporting a water infrastructure management plan. Here it goes.
- Bottled water is in many ways a North American obsession, with North Americans drinking annually 10 billion gallons. Not only do they drink vast amounts but they are willing to pay 10,000 times the cost of tap water for the privilege of drinking an arguably inferior product. We get the 10,000 times number from the fact that on average bottled water cost $10 per gallon compared to tap water which costs $.0015 per gallon or about a tenth of a penny (North American average). What is more is that the plastic bottles that this water comes in create billions of pounds of oil based trash destined to live out a thousand year lifespan in a trash dump.
- Globally some 53 billion gallons of bottled water are consumed creating a $63 billion dollar industry. One the most peculiar facts is that 40% of this bottled water is actually taken from municipal water sources also known as "tap water". Another strange element of this puzzle is that far less testing is done on bottled water than on tap water. It turns out that unlike tap water, bottled water isn't tested for e. coli. More still is the fact that it can be distributed even if it doesn't meet the quality standards of tap water. Unlike tap water, bottled water isn't required to produce quality reports or even provide its source.
- Comically, the bottled water production process is fairly resource intensive. It actually takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce bottled water which is enough oil to fuel 1 million cars for a whole year. Oil isn't the only necessary resource. Luckily tap water is very cheap because it takes about 3 times the amount of tap water to produce and fill 1 bottle of bottled water.
By properly looking after our infrastructure, just like little ants gather their food for the winter and accumulate resources with an eye to the worst to happen, we will have cheap, clean, drinkable and affordable water, and we will not need to spend money in expensive bottled water.