so claims Derrick Jackson in today's Boston Globe. It is not the first time he he has written about the scam, nor is it the first time I have dedicated a Daily Kos diary to one of his op eds. The occasion of his writing this time can be seen in the first paragraph of this op ed:
WE DON’T MISS the water when the cash runs dry. Bottled water, that is. That refreshing news came recently as Nestle reported nearly a 5 percent drop in bottled water sales in North America and Western Europe. That company bottles water under the familiar names of Poland Spring, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, and Deer Park.
. Other brands are seeing similar drops. And the economic news gives Jackson a good excuse to remind us of the cost of bottled water, even as he writes
The sad part is that ending the bottled-water fad took a recession, when common sense should have kicked in long ago.
Let's consider some of the data Jackson offers us.
Most bottled water is simply packaged municiple water.
The Environmental Policy Institute estimated 2 years ago that each gallon of bottled water costs $10/gallon from grounwater to your lips.
Purchasing bottled water is a double hit to the environment
(1) plastic bottles
(2) fuel to transport
at a cost four times that of regular gasoline
According to the GAO, energy costs of delivery bottled water in Los Angeles is over 1,000 times that of tap water.
Some will say bottled water is safer than tap water, right? Except if it is simply tap water, how is that possible?
And as our annual per person consumption has gone from 13.4 gallons in 1997 to 29.3 gallons ten years later, we do not even have good access to health information - the GAO found almost no information on labels about health or water quality, and often incomplete information if one went online to try to obtain it.
Meanwhile our landfills continue to feel the impact, as 3/4 of the water bottles do not get recycled, but accumulate with the rest of our garbage.
Jackson wonders if people's behavior might change if they understood the costs. I have to wonder. Try this some time - when you see someone with a plastic bottle of water, ask if they might prefer drinking gasoline. Of course they will think you strange. Point out to them that the purchase cost per unit of bottled water is several times that of gasoline, ad they will be surprised, yet usually immediately start offering justifications about health and safety. Point out that usually despite the fancy name they are drinking water taken from municipal sources, and they shrug their shoulders and end the conversation.
As egregious as the profits are for health insurance companies, they pale to the ratio of price to cost of bottled water. Consider Jackson's penultimate paragraph:
In one of the more outrageous examples of bottled-water scamming, the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star reported in June how the Safeway supermarket chain turns Merced city water into an enormous profit. "In Safeway’s case,’’ the newspaper reported, "they pay more than $1,000 a month for more than a million gallons of water. The retail cost for that much-purified bottled water at Safeway is just under $3 million. Safeway would not say how much it costs them to produce their water.’’ Yet Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill told the Sun-Star, "We are providing a product that did not exist previously.’’
Prior to 1945, we did not have nuclear bombs - mere newness is not always a sufficient justification. And I chose that comparison deliberately, because currently we may be doing far more damage to environment with our consumption of bottled water than we are in the production of nuclear bombs, or even in the accumulated waste from generating electricity from nuclear power. We are wasting fuel to transport, which adds to the CO2 in the atmosphere. We are adding to trash from the plastic bottles. And of course we add to C O2 in the energy wasted - yes wasted - in the production of the containers.
Safeway's spokesman did not have the final word in the column. Nor shall she here. As I ask you to consider avoiding wherever possible bottled water in plastic bottles, and if you must occasionally, save the bottles and refill them from your own water, as your part to cutting down on the environmental impact, let me offer Jackson's final words:
Last I heard, water existed before bottles, and before Safeway. Thankfully, consumers are beginning to remember that, too.
How about you?