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Bottled water
May 3, 2001 4:59 AM   Subscribe

Bottled water a waste of money, no better than most tap water, and environmentally unfriendly.
posted by revbrian (54 comments total)

 
I have always wanted to bottle tap water and call it (with a fancy label) Mexican Well Water. Or, Indian Ganges Water.
We have long used bottled water to stay away from the floride put in city water. This has kept us from the commie takeover (those old enough will catch this reference).
posted by Postroad at 5:08 AM on May 3, 2001


Isn't this an apples/oranges comparison? I drink tap water at home (after it's been through the Brita filter) but if I'm out somewhere and the choice is soda versus bottled water, I'll frequently take a bottled water. I would assume that unless one's tap water is particularly bad, most people don't switch over to bottled completely, do they?
posted by ljromanoff at 5:19 AM on May 3, 2001


Well most of my life I must admit I've been a tap water person. However, I live in south Dallas, and when I realized bottled water just tastes better than stuff coming out of the tap, I started buying bottled water. I'm aware it's a waste of money. I'm aware it's no better for me than anything else. I'm aware it's environmentally unfriendly. I'm aware it's a dumb thing to do, like paying to have clean air when I could just quit smoking. However, it tastes better, and in that alone, I am justified. I live near the Trinity River. Trust me. Bottled water is the way to go in North Texas.
posted by ZachsMind at 5:40 AM on May 3, 2001


If you live near the ocean the tap water is often undrinkable (briny) and if you live in the US bottled water may save you from arsenic poisoning. Ljromanoff makes a good point that bottled water is preferable to sodas (sugar water) when you're out and about. Postroad, wasn't Brother John Birch the first advocate of bottled water? I hear T. Boone Pickens is now in on the water game in Texas. Can't pump oil there anymore, brine from oil wells have polluted many water supplies, so the next fortune is selling the poor suckers, ehem, Texans, drinkable water. The rest of the US will learn soon enough how things are done in Texas...
posted by nofundy at 5:42 AM on May 3, 2001


We have long used bottled water to stay away from the floride put in city water. This has kept us from the commie takeover (those old enough will catch this reference).

"Mandrake ... have you ever seen a commie drink a glass of water?"

Seriously though, there is actually some evidence that fluoridation of drinking water is unhealthy, but because of Dr. Strangelove, anyone who brings up the subject is instantly labelled a crackpot.
posted by Potsy at 5:47 AM on May 3, 2001


[...and if you live in the US bottled water may save you from arsenic poisoning. ]

Hardly a chance of that occuring except in a few relatively obscure places and then the levels are estimated to increase cancer risks by 1%. Having a BBQ is more likely to give you cancer than naturally occuring arsenic levels.
posted by revbrian at 5:57 AM on May 3, 2001


Around these parts they add chlorine to our drinking water to kill any nasties that might be living in it. Makes it taste awful so I drink bottled water.
posted by SuperBreakout at 6:07 AM on May 3, 2001


We got a sink filter. Insta-pur or something like that. Water tastes great now. Me happy.
posted by mecran01 at 6:29 AM on May 3, 2001


Growing up in Utah, I thought that anyone who drank bottled water was a fool. Then I moved to the Northwest and had to invest in a Britta which made the water a little cleaner and it tasted better too. Next was a move to Phoenix where you could run the water through a Britta 40 times and still puke, I switched to bottled water full-time. I think that you can definitely tell the difference. BTW, having lived in Asia for a number of years I can tell you that it is more a hassle to boil water for everything than shelling out the money. Besides boiled water always had a distinct flavor that I just did not like.
posted by Stretch at 6:36 AM on May 3, 2001


Justin Hall has an interesting anti-fluoridation page published as part of his thesis.
posted by rcade at 6:36 AM on May 3, 2001


It's even worse farther south in Texas. I used to be in the performing company at the Scarborough Faire Renaissance Festival back when I still functioned under the illusion that I had talent. Try a shower in the hard water of Waxahachie Texas, and soon you'll find yourself seriously considering buying a few gallons of bottled water just to bathe in.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:09 AM on May 3, 2001


There's a lot of evidence about flouride being unhealthy. I did a huge paper on it in college. I don't even brush with flouride toothpaste anymore. If anyone's interested, I can send you the paper.
posted by fusinski at 7:18 AM on May 3, 2001


The problem in the Boston area is not the water supply itself, but the 150-year-old water pipes in most of the cities and towns. All those pipes are lead and leech lead at markedly unhealthy levels into the water that comes out of the tap.

We use a Brita filter at home, my office has a water filter system in the kitchen, and I avoid drinking tap water around here if possible.
posted by briank at 7:19 AM on May 3, 2001


The rest of the US will learn soon enough how things are done in Texas...

Jesus, could we have one thread on here that doesn't end up discussing who's in the Oval Office? I'm sure the water in Tennessee ain't that great, either.
posted by ljromanoff at 7:20 AM on May 3, 2001


Although fluoridation of drinking water may be unhealthy [Potsy], bottled water may contain bacteria or toxins. Check your favorite brand here (including some water myths) or here.



Hmmm..., time for coffee.
posted by nonharmful at 7:22 AM on May 3, 2001


Bottled water is a pure taste thing for me. It's unfortunate that, to my knowledge, every American source water is treated ("purified") to some extent before it's bottled; that's what the European waters taste so much better.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:29 AM on May 3, 2001


Fluoride, not all bad and the lack of fluoride in bottled water is not that good.
posted by nonharmful at 7:36 AM on May 3, 2001


Being an impoverished student I can't afford bottled water. Since I live in London where Thames Water has passed through 7 people before me on it's way down the river I get by sticking it in empty bottles and putting it in the fridge. It's significantly better cool. Does anyone else know why cold water (or any liquid for that matter, except Tea) tastes better cold?
posted by nedrichards at 7:44 AM on May 3, 2001


nonharmful, i disagree. There have been many studies that have shown that children growing up in areas without flouridated water have healthier teeth than children in flouridated areas. The ADA is full of crap--they never even carried out long term research to see the effects of flouridation. And by long term, I mean research in excess of 5 years. They saw short term results, and they all jumped on the bandwagon.

In addition to this, flouride has also been found to affect the reproductive system in animals, cause cancer, and increase the frequency of birth defects.
posted by fusinski at 7:47 AM on May 3, 2001


In cold water, or cold anything, the molecules are moving slower, which results in it having less taste. That's why hot food is usually better than cold.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:50 AM on May 3, 2001


My family owns a bottled water company in Cleveland, so I've been drinking it all my life. For me it's far more of a taste thing than anything else- most tap water I've tried has tasted absolutely awful. And as for certain bottled waters being worse than tap waters, I generally drink distilled water, which is about as free of anything as you can get.

As a side note, that second study no bacteria in bottled waters you linked to is somewhat deceiving, nonharmful. At a glance, they all look to be about equally bad. That is, until you notice that the scale along the left side is a logarithmic scale. Kinda shady..
posted by zempf at 7:57 AM on May 3, 2001


The anti-floridation page does not pursuade me that floride is bad. The author notes, for example, that asbestos was approved by the govt and years later viewed as no good. But asbestos was not food and and not chemicals put into food/water and hence not in need of govt approval. When it was found to be bad, it was removed. (note: smoking at one time was not considered very harmful.)
When cities are in control then the correct amount is put into the water--let's hear it for govt controls?--so that getting too much is not a problem.
Since most areas of the country have had floride in water for many years now there should be stats to show that those not using city water with floride do not have this or that problem compared to a sample group of those using floridated water. This nowhere appears on the dissertation page extracts.
If you worry about floride, then drink bottled water. Water in some areas of the country so bad that they serve lousy pizza cause the water is mixed with the dough for the pie and this kills the taste of the pie. Now that is important to know before you travel. Some of the best pies in the country, made up my way , are made with floridated water.
posted by Postroad at 7:59 AM on May 3, 2001


I remember seeing a label from a brand of bottled water in Florida. I think it was called "Glacial Springs" or something like that, with a glacier and a polar bear on the front.

In small text on the side of the bottle: "Source: County Municipal Water Supply"

Tap water.
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:03 AM on May 3, 2001


make that "Source: [whatever] County..."

Forgot that things between angle-braces wouldn't show up
posted by CrayDrygu at 8:04 AM on May 3, 2001


Bingo, Cray. At least they bothered to (evasively) 'fess up. I've lost count of the number of reports I've seen on bottled water distributors hooking up garden hoses to their bottling machines.

Man! Maybe I've been lucky; I've never lived anywhere (in the Pac NW) that tap water didn't do me just fine. Even here in Seattle (I assume now that someone is going to direct me to some horrifying report about cryptosporidium population explosions in the Duwamish).
posted by Skot at 8:22 AM on May 3, 2001


Recently they replaced the water pipes here in San Diego. The old ones were about 80yrs old. They were laying on the street in front of my apartment for a day or so before they were hauled off. Every section had 1/4 inch of rust and god knows what else on the inside. With an apology to the environment, I now only drink bottled water when possible.
posted by keithl at 8:25 AM on May 3, 2001


I gotta say, I'm shocked by how much better the tap water tastes here in the Seattle area than it does in Detroit. I should probably have a filter on the tap here to screen out any nasties, but in Detroit I needed one just to improve the flavor.
posted by kindall at 8:27 AM on May 3, 2001


Has anyone else noticed what word the name "evian" spelled backwards forms? Coincidence?
posted by borgle at 8:30 AM on May 3, 2001


Has anyone else noticed what word the name "evian" spelled backwards forms? Coincidence?

Yes.
posted by ljromanoff at 8:33 AM on May 3, 2001


I was under the impression that Evian was a region in France or something. Don't think they're depending on their consumers to be stupid enough not to notice that they're being called naive.
posted by zempf at 8:39 AM on May 3, 2001


[fusinski] wrote:
There have been many studies that have shown that children growing up in areas without flouridated water have healthier teeth than children in flouridated areas.

....and even more studies showing the opposite, also on long term development.
Recent meta-analysis show positive effects over 6 years and older (Community Dent Oral Epidemiol 1999 Feb;27(1):48-56). See for yourself with Pub Med.


More importantly, fluoride is a trace-element and as such necessary to maintain life. The exact amount is unknown, but prehistoric dietary intake was higher than modern dietary intake. I do agree that the the current ADA dosage schedule may be too high and requires modification.
posted by nonharmful at 8:57 AM on May 3, 2001


I never drank much water until after I started drinking bottled spring water and there is only one type of bottled water that I really like. Most bottled waters seem to have a weird taste to them. I know where the bottled water that I drink comes from, here in my own state, and that is reassuring to me. Imagine that, bottled spring water that really comes from clean springs. But at about a $1.19 per bottle at the cheapest place I have found it for sale, it is quite expensive. I drink two 1.5 liter bottles per day, sometimes three or four. I usually drink milk and other things as well, but when I do not, I drink a lot more water.

I need to look into some type of filter. I can not stand tap water, at least the tap water here. It has way too much chlorine or something. I'd like to have some sort of shower filter too, actually. Any suggestions for tap/shower filters?
posted by bargle at 9:40 AM on May 3, 2001


bargle, I just got this Spring Shower Filter-Chrome a few weeks ago. It's great - cuts way down on the chlorine etc
posted by johnb at 10:57 AM on May 3, 2001


My apartment in San Francisco used to be in the industrial section. The water department sent me a little note saying that I might not want to drink the tap water. And based on the amount of stones I'd pull out of my shower head every week (calcium?) I was in complete agreement. We'd use bottled water for everything, even boiling pasta.

Now I have a house accross the bay in a non industrial section, and I'm very happy I can drink the tap water again. Sometimes, even in affluent sections of America, it's just not safe.
posted by captaincursor at 11:19 AM on May 3, 2001


The thing that bothers me the most about the bottled-water craze is that because all the well-to-do folks are buying bottled water, there's no impetus to clean up local water supplies. The folks that can't afford bottled have to drink the crap that comes out of the tap. The people who can afford bottled quickly forget about the problem of the bad tap water.
posted by owen at 12:18 PM on May 3, 2001


In my younger years, I worked as a gas attendant. I always got the biggest kick out of customers who would come in and grumble that gas was so expensive (about 42 cents a litre at the time) then turn around and pay 1.19 for a half litre bottle of water.
posted by spunkster at 12:45 PM on May 3, 2001


I would rather drink this bottled water, which is also great for brewing a fine cup of coffee.
posted by Sal Amander at 12:56 PM on May 3, 2001


There's a factory down the road from here (middle of Leicester) that "manufactures" drinking water. No springs. No river. No glacial stream. Makes me smile each time I cycle past. Wonder how long before it's accompanied by an air factory and the middle classes buy cyclinders of air to breathe...
posted by andrew cooke at 1:36 PM on May 3, 2001


Heh. Now if only we all bought a Spring Shower Chrome Filter we'd be making the world so much more sustainable. Chrome, wassat? Some heavy metal? Nah...

Sorry - wouldn't have mentioned it, but the tag line "products for an ecologically sustainable future" above some daffy filter for a shower.... Hello?
posted by andrew cooke at 1:53 PM on May 3, 2001


andrew cooke:

1) Chrome actually has a favorable carbon-emissions-per-kg profile, relative to alternative materials

2) By restricting flow, the filter reduces both water and energy use.

I would conjecture that if your were to replace your current shower head with one of these (or similar), it would be a net positive for the environment.

(NB: I have no financial relationship with any water filter manufacturer)
posted by johnb at 2:14 PM on May 3, 2001


Wouldn't it be simpler to turn the shower down? And how can chrome have a lower carbon-emissions-per-kg profile than buying nothing at all?!

If you want to buy gadgets, fine. But buying gadgets is not sustainable anything. It's gadget shopping.
posted by andrew cooke at 2:29 PM on May 3, 2001


Was I just wound up? Or were you really serious?
posted by andrew cooke at 2:30 PM on May 3, 2001


>>Wouldn't it be simpler to turn the shower down?

No, it wouldn't. However much you can tolerably "turn it down" on your current showerhead -- say, to X kg/sec -- you can "turn it down" even more on a reduced-flow showerhead -- to (X-h) kg/sec -- without detecting a difference. Over time, h adds up to a big difference.

>>And how can chrome have a lower carbon-emissions-per-kg profile than buying nothing at all?!

If you want to do without a showerhead altogether, you will waste a lot of water (assuming you still take showers). So you need a showerhead of some kind, and among all the materials commonly used to make showerheads, chrome is actually one of the least destructive (strange but true). And as explained above, keeping your current showerhead (unless it's already reduced-flow) adds up to a lot of wasted water and energy.

>>If you want to buy gadgets, fine. But buying gadgets is not sustainable anything. It's gadget shopping.

If you want to do without "gadgets" -- and therefore showers -- altogether, be my guest. However, apart from those of us leading Unabomber-type lifestyles, we all buy some quantity of material goods. At the least, we should try to reduce our ecological footprint as far as possible without impairing our standard of living. If you can do more than that, go for it.

Was I just wound up? Or were you really serious?

Both, apparently.
posted by johnb at 3:13 PM on May 3, 2001


Just remember ... EVIAN is NAIVE spelled backwards.
posted by Twang at 5:23 PM on May 3, 2001


Evian tastes really good (it's the "softest" of waters), and I like it because it makes me drink more water. The French aren't idiots in this regard. I wish there was an American mineral water which wasn't processed (had its taste ruined) for the sake of "purity"--American paranoia.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:01 PM on May 3, 2001


Another random thought:

Anybody else ever wonder what pure H2O tastes like? No minerals, no flouride, no clorine, nothing. Just hydrogen and oxygen.

Does anybody sell that? I'd buy it. Or have I probably seen it and just don't know?
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:07 PM on May 3, 2001


Cray (if I may call you that), good water has minerals and some salts. Distilled water is bland!
posted by ParisParamus at 7:15 PM on May 3, 2001


Oh, I'm sure water tastes better with stuff in it. Don't doubt it for a minute. (And yeah, Cray's fine)

It's just one of those "I wonder" things.

I'm surprised I didn't think of distilled water. Dunno why. I'm not gonna go out of my way to try it, but next time there's a bottle kicking around... After all, can't do any harm, even if it does taste wacky.
posted by CrayDrygu at 7:56 PM on May 3, 2001


Honestly, if Americans drank better tasting water (in France, lots of the tap water has been, historically, icky, so the tradition of bottled water developed), they'd probably drink more of it, be less what the perceive as hungry, and be less fat.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:05 PM on May 3, 2001


For those of you using a Britta - I hope that you clean it often. Because if you don't its like running your already bad tap water through a dirty sponge. Britta water can very easily be worse for you than tap.

But then no one seems to really care about that issue in this thread. Shouldn't bottled water be held to a standard? Shouldn't it have to be healthier, or purer, than tap? I may be a sucker, but that's part of what I thought I was buying.

The taste and healthier issues seem mutually exclusive to me. I expect that bottled water will taste better. I assume that it is healthier!
posted by xammerboy at 9:04 PM on May 3, 2001


>>For those of you using a Britta - I hope that you clean it often. Because if you don't its like running your already bad tap water through a dirty sponge. Britta water can very easily be worse for you than tap.

So that little indicator light is bogus/misleading? (the model I have is called the "brita ultra faucet filter")

>>I expect that bottled water will taste better. I assume that it is healthier!

It's definitely not healthier than tap water. The regulations governing bottled water are laxer than those governing tap water (of course, in many cases bottled water simply is tap water). Check out the NRDC survey of contamination issues in the bottled water industry. I believe Naya was the only major brand that tested negative for all the contaminants.
posted by johnb at 9:42 PM on May 3, 2001


As I mentioned earlier, I've been drinking distilled water for the majority of my life & have noticed no ill effects thus far. I guess I never really cared that it has no taste because I've never really expected my water to have taste - that's what my coffee's for.
posted by zempf at 9:57 PM on May 3, 2001


I respectfully submit that if you're going to drink something from a bottle, it damn well oughta have an alcohol content of some kind.

That said, there's been a lot of places I've lived around the world where the very concept of drinking water from the tap makes your entrails shiver (and no likes shivery entrails, by gum). Be thankful, as I am, that you live in a place (if you do) where you CAN drink the tap water and not find your spleen sitting in the toilet bowl 12 hours later....
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 12:02 AM on May 4, 2001


In monetary terms, water (drinkable) is going to be the gold, or should I say oil, of the future. The control of it is going to make some people and corporations incredibly wealthy.

I know that some people live in places where it just isn't practical or possible to have a rain water tank. But given that reasonably pure water is becoming more scarce, I'm surprised that local governments don't encourage more home-owners to install rain-water tanks (via the use of public education drives and subsidies) Even a fairly small rainwater tank can give you enough drinking water for a year. A slightly larger one can be used for showers etc....and if you wish to, you can recycle your shower and washing water and use it to water your garden.

"By 2010, about 2.5 billion people in the world are projected to lack access to safe drinking water. At least 30 per cent of the population in China, India, Mexico and the U.S. is expected to face severe water stress."
posted by lucien at 6:05 AM on May 4, 2001


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