American Madness

Intelligent Criticism in the Service of a Better Nation

Bottled v. Tap Water

Posted by Matt Cipriano | No Comments

Okay, the other day I complained about the New York Times with their “Times Select” Feature that they slap onto popular articles so you actually have to pay to read them, well they did it again with another article I was planning on writing about here. Almost came to be that you wouldn’t be able to read it, fortunately, I discovered a work around to this solution. Let’s say I retyped the entire article here and it is available to read after the post (with proper credit to the author and the NY Times of course).

Anyway, we are back to my favorite topic to write about: Water.

We’ve previously noted that drinking water is on the rise, over taking soft drinks, coffee, milk, and encroaching on beers territory. We’ve also noted that NY has begun to campaign to get people to drink more tap water instead of fancy bottled waters. Now we have an article from the New York Times (posted after the jump since yo can no longer access it online) titled “A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet” which briefly touches on the uphill battle tap water is going to need to fight to prevail over bottled water. Multiple government agencies are getting involved with this one as well: “The city Health Department, mindful of high obesity rates, says water is more healthful than many other, sugar-filled drinks. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection touts its low environmental impact. Both note that it’s practically free.”

Of course the major factor on the other side of the argument is convenience, it is not like a lot of delis in New York are eager to hand you over a cup of tap water. The article goes into a little detail as to how pure and great NY tap water is as it is a self-sustaining system needing little filtration and chemical processing and has a “clean taste.”

Don’t get me wrong here, it may sound like I am mocking the article a bit, but I am a huge fan of New York tap water, I’d be drinking it right now and all day long at work… If there wasn’t a Deer Park water cooler 10 feet from my desk, which, of course, goes back to the whole argument about convenience.

Following up this one we have a brief piece on tap water from CNN Money. Apparently Aquafina, Pepsi’s water will start labeling that it is tap water, which is just kind of a slap in the face of people who are drinking tap water to get away from the whole bottle, though I guess an argument could be made for truth in advertising… Though it is a weak one.

To quote The New York Times article from July 15, 2007, Late Edition – Final titled “A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet” By BILL MARSH:

“THOSE eight daily glasses of water you’re supposed to drink for good health? They will cost you $0.00135 — about 49 cents a year — if you take it from a New York City tap.

Or, city officials suggest, you could spend 2,900 times as much, roughly $1,400 yearly, by drinking bottled water. For the extra money, they say, you get the added responsibility for piling on to the nation’s waste heap and encouraging more of the industrial emissions that are heating up the planet.

But trends in American thirst quenching favor the 2,900-fold premium, as the overflowing trash cans of Central Park attest. In fact, bottled water is growing at the expense of every other beverage category except sports drinks. It has overtaken coffee and milk, and it is closing in on beer. Tap, if trends continue, would be next.

Now New York City officials — like the mayors of Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and San Francisco — are campaigning to get people to reverse course and open their faucets instead of their wallets. The city Health Department, mindful of high obesity rates, says water is more healthful than many other, sugar-filled drinks. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection touts its low environmental impact. Both note that it’s practically free (leaving aside those New Yorkers for whom paying extra is a lifestyle choice).

New York’s water is the envy of municipalities everywhere. It is one of just five major American systems whose water is so good it needs little or no filtration, saving energy and chemicals. (The others are Boston, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle.)

The system is self-sustaining from rainwater stored in reservoirs. Gravity takes it downhill to the city, where pumps are unnecessary in all but a few neighborhoods.

New York water is quite pure, requiring little chlorine, and low in minerals, giving it a clean taste.

Sounds like an ad for bottled water.

But beverage industry representatives say their version is not just about health and taste — its plastic container, scorned by environmentalists, is actually a plus for consumers.

”The tap water quality is fine in most of the United States,” said John D. Sicher Jr., editor and publisher at Beverage Digest, a trade publication. ”The issue is convenience and shifting consumer preference. It’s not so easy, walking down Third Avenue on a hot day, to get a glass of tap water.”

Bottled water has profited from the sagging image of soft drinks, a category in decline for nearly a decade (but still the most consumed of beverages, by far). Preferences evolve — could it be tap’s turn?

”Through education and motivation you can get people to change their habits,” said Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, citing smoking, recycling and wearing seat belts. Convenience comes in different forms, she added: ”It’s easy to fill a bottle of water and stick it in your backpack.”

With surveys showing climate change a growing concern, officials and advocates say they hope people will consider the implications of billions of bottles.

”More than 90 percent of the environmental impacts from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Oil for plastic, oil for shipping, oil for refrigeration — and in the end, most of the effort goes to landfills.

”The bottle is going to have to change,” he said, noting research in plastics made from plants. ”I’m seeing more interest in this than any time in 30 years.” “


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