The many costs of bottled water
July 3, 2007 4:13 PM   Subscribe

Fast Company covers the twisted economics and ironies of the bottled water industry. "In Fiji, a state-of-the-art factory spins out more than a million bottles a day of the hippest bottled water on the U.S. market today, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have safe, reliable drinking water."
posted by allterrainbrain (146 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
The thing the story highlights well is the utter absurdity of bottled water. We have drinkable tap water in the USA, regulated by Federal law. It's a shining, multi billion dollar achievement. Potable tap water shows that it's a lie that "government can't do anything right."
posted by wuwei at 4:33 PM on July 3, 2007 [6 favorites]


The problem with tap water is that it doesn't taste good. If my tap water tasted as good as bottled water, then I would drink it, but it doesn't. I don't see what's so unreasonable about that.

A gallon jug of purified water costs about 50¢, and lasts me like a week.

I don't think it's question of replacing tap water with bottled water, but replacing sugary drinks like Coke and Pepsi with bottled water, which would be a good thing for most people.
posted by delmoi at 4:38 PM on July 3, 2007


I do have potable tap water, in my home, but when am I ever at home? If I only drank water when at home, I'd been in serious trouble indeed.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 4:41 PM on July 3, 2007


You can't consider yourself someone concerned with greenhouse gas emissions or global warming if you insist on drinking water that was driven from another part of the country, to a store that you then drive to, served in plastic bottles. That's absurdly irresponsible from an environmental standpoint, and there's no positive way to spin that.

If your tap water tastes gross, then get one of the myriad of home filtration solutions available, and you'll still get pennies to the dollar on your water compared to buying bottles. Even gallon jugs are a joke. Buy a good, decent sized water bottle (nalgene, sport bottle, whatever).
posted by potch at 4:44 PM on July 3, 2007 [17 favorites]


You can't consider yourself someone concerned with greenhouse gas emissions or global warming if you insist on drinking water that was driven from another part of the country

Forget about water driven from another part of the country. People want water shipped over from the other side of the world. This is crazy.
posted by grouse at 4:46 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The money paragraph:

In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It's so good the EPA doesn't require San Francisco to filter it. If you bought and drank a bottle of Evian, you could refill that bottle once a day for 10 years, 5 months, and 21 days with San Francisco tap water before that water would cost $1.35. Put another way, if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:47 PM on July 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


It is a ripoff and a scam. from the article "if the water we use at home cost what even cheap bottled water costs, our monthly water bills would run $9,000."
posted by Megafly at 4:47 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I do have potable tap water, in my home, but when am I ever at home?

Um, they have taps outside your home too. Pretty much everywhere, in fact. And it's generally an even lower price: free.
posted by scottreynen at 5:02 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Very thoughtful article, presenting facts for the reader to draw their own conclusions.

I don't really mind that there are people foolish enough to spend hundreds of dollars day/month/year on something as lame as water.

What I do worry is that the money amassed by giants like Nestle will put lobbying pressure on municipalities to reduce water services. I wish I had more evidence that this is happening, but it's sort of a gut feeling. It makes as much sense as General Motors lobbying for the demolition of cable cars and electric trolley buses.

I just relocated from a municipality with absolutely excellent water, that tastes better than bottled to most everyone I talk to back home, to Chicago, where everyone seems to have a filter on their tap. People here seem crazy about bottled water to me, and I guess it's a rational choice. When there hasn't been enough investment to keep gray-colored crap from floating out of the faucet, there is incentive to purchase a higher quality substitute.

Maybe we should just close the circle and sell the public water utilities to Nestle as well?
posted by metaldark at 5:03 PM on July 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


Lewis Black, on water.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:03 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The reality is, if Fiji Water weren't tapping its aquifer, the underground water would slide into the Pacific Ocean, somewhere just off the coast. But the corresponding reality is, someone else--the Fijian government, an NGO--could be tapping that supply and sending it through a pipe to villagers who need it. Fiji Water has, in fact, done just that, to some degree--20 water projects in the five nearby villages. Indeed, Roll has reinvested every dollar of profit since 2004 back into the business and the island.
That doesn't sound so bad. And on top of that, it's not clear that the local government has the capability to do that sort of public works project. According to the article there have been like two coups in the past few years.
posted by delmoi at 5:04 PM on July 3, 2007


It sounds like Fiji Water is doing a lot of good for the Fijians. Maybe not for the atmosphere, but the quote in the FPP makes it sound like the bottling plant is stealing water from the islanders or otherwise somehow causing their poverty.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:05 PM on July 3, 2007


What I do worry is that the money amassed by giants like Nestle will put lobbying pressure on municipalities to reduce water services.

That's absurd. People drink only a tiny portion of the water they use, most of which goes to flushing their toilets, washing dishes and taking showers. That sort of thing.
posted by delmoi at 5:06 PM on July 3, 2007


On preview, I like water bottles.
posted by hoverboards don't work on water at 5:07 PM on July 3, 2007


it's only marginally more trouble to have reusable water bottles, cleaned and filled and tucked in the lunch box or the fridge. We just can't be bothered.

Well, I bother. I fill up old dasani bottles with generic purified water from gallon jugs before I go to the gym and things like that.
posted by delmoi at 5:08 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


That's absurd. People drink only a tiny portion of the water they use, most of which goes to flushing their toilets, washing dishes and taking showers. That sort of thing.

People can still wash their SUVs with water they won't dare drink.

Maybe I was being a bit dramatic...
posted by metaldark at 5:08 PM on July 3, 2007


For me the two magic words for my drinking water are Brita and Nalgene (insert your favorite alternatives if you like). I happen to live in a city w/ good tap water, but Brita is still really important for giving the tap water a great taste. Then Nalgene to carry it around with me.

(FYI, you shouldn't put hot liquids or harsh soaps in the Nalgene bottle, even to wash it -- that can leach out dangerous chemicals. With cool water and mild soap washing, it's perfect and saves me ever buying bottled water.)
posted by sparrows at 5:08 PM on July 3, 2007


I fill up old dasani bottles with generic purified water from gallon jugs before I go to the gym and things like that.

Maybe tap water just needs marketing dollars?
posted by metaldark at 5:11 PM on July 3, 2007


(To be clear, that chemical leaching thing is even much more true of the single-use bottles that bottled water comes in -- it's actually not a good idea to reuse them, so I hope you will consider getting a bottle like Nalgene. Or one of the metal bottles that are Nalgene-like; they are a little heavier but have no leaching problem.)
posted by sparrows at 5:11 PM on July 3, 2007


I never drink water. Fish fuck in it.
posted by howfar at 5:13 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


The reason the quote about Fiji struck me is the economic irony. Drinkable water from Fiji is shipped around the world, at staggering environmental cost, while people in Fiji lack access to drinkable water -- so the question in my mind is how much it would cut into the profits of Fiji Water to simply pump drinkable water out for the c. 400,000 people right there in Fiji who need it. After people react to this article, they might consider such a thing a worthy PR investment. :)
posted by allterrainbrain at 5:20 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The bottled water industry (though it is far larger) reminds me of the scented candle industry which emerged to plague gift-giving and upscale decorating in the Nineties.

Scented candles used to be regarded as cheap. Someone learned that you can make a profit by adding a subtle scent to paraffin, giving the scent a clever name, pouring the wax into a glass or lidded can, adding a wick, sticking an aesthetic label on the glass or can, and marking the whole up to $20 to $50.

The damn things became ubiquitous, and they rarely give off any perceptible scent when burning, the point (you would think) of a scented candle.

Similarly with bottled water -- all the effort is in the marketing, the design of the bottle, the label, etc. I am now drinking my tap water out of a Nalgene bottle. My tap water (Washington, D.C. area) has the faintest chlorine taste, but I hope I'm escaping the marketers.
posted by bad grammar at 5:32 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Previously -- Bling H2O.

From Penn & Teller's Bullshit -- Bottled Water [video].

NPR: Rethinking Bottled Water -- Robert Siegel interviews Charles Fishman, the Fast Company reporter who penned the article linked in the FPP.

And just last week: San Francisco says no to bottled water.
posted by ericb at 5:34 PM on July 3, 2007


Remember, if you're going to be drinking tap water to rebel against those evil marketers and their image-obsessed sheep, drink it out of a cool, refreshing, certified Nalgene bottle. Only cool people drink out of Nalgene bottles. You want to be cool, don't you?
posted by Stan Chin at 5:38 PM on July 3, 2007 [15 favorites]


Just think of the water they're taking from Fiji as something else essential to human life, like shelter, or heat, or air. It may allow you to realize how explicitly the industry is killing these people.
posted by tehloki at 5:39 PM on July 3, 2007


on postview: Stan Chin, it's become a generic, like band-aid or kleenex. Get over yourself.
posted by tehloki at 5:40 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


TIME Magazine: The Making of a Water Snob.
posted by ericb at 5:41 PM on July 3, 2007


tehloki,
Uh, the article, as delmoi notes, says that Fiji Water has built a number of water projects to help the local population. It's not like they're sucking up the water Captain- Planet-Villain-Style and flying off.
posted by Sangermaine at 5:43 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]




BTW -- watch the Penn & Teller episode (linked above). You might be surprised that folks prefer the tap water of L.A. and New York City in their blind tastings.
posted by ericb at 5:47 PM on July 3, 2007


I too drink bottled water because I hate the taste of the local water. However, only part time.

At home, I have a on-tap filter that does a decent job of making the city water not taste like ass. At work, they don't provide water, so I buy bottled...either by large flat of it or individually from the pop machine when I don't have any left of the bottles I brought in. In the pop machine, they sell a variety of carbonated beverages...Coke, Pepsi, Canada Dry, etc. for $1.00. The Dasani bottles, from the same machine, cost $1.50. The price difference I don't really understand.

Why don't I filter water and bring it to work? Because I can't filter enough, and store it long enough at work, to make it decently worthwhile. If I could filter water, bottle it easily in single-use bottles, and keep it for two weeks without any issue of bacterial growth, I'd do so.
posted by Kickstart70 at 5:52 PM on July 3, 2007


That Penn and Teller video is awesome.
posted by chlorus at 5:53 PM on July 3, 2007


it's become a generic, like band-aid or kleenex. Get over yourself.

Nalgene bottles are ubiquitous? What? In what other universe than preppy college students, as this Yale Herald article hints at? Nalgenes, which I admit are pretty durable due to their laboratory roots (who also make all kinds of polyethylene stuff), make sense for hikers and outdoorsmen. I'm not going to deny that.

Just like Jeeps, SUVs, and North Face gear are great for outdoorsmen. At this point, here comes the argument of "You can't taste the plastic if you use Nalgene!" Dude, it's a water bottle, filled with tap water that has been through many many pipes, which most likely of which you have not rinsed the soap out of thoroughly since washing. At some point, the Nalgene (even at a minor level) is as style conscious as Fiji Water.
posted by Stan Chin at 6:00 PM on July 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


> The thing the story highlights well is the utter absurdity of bottled water. We have drinkable tap
> water in the USA, regulated by Federal law. It's a shining, multi billion dollar achievement. Potable
> tap water shows that it's a lie that "government can't do anything right."

Some years back I ran a lab at the U. Ga. Institute of Ecology that did water analysis, among other things. (I see the pages I wrote for the lab are miraculously still up, though they look sooo 1997 now, not a css in sight anywhere.) Here's the page describing continuous flow colorimetric analysis, and the page giving the EPA testing protocol for ammonium ion. The lab's clients were ecologists and aquatic biologists and their grad students but I brought in other samples fairly often just for the L of it--storm water overflow, rain water, tap water. I found the tap water was usually pretty clean, at least for the analytes I tested, but occasionally I saw spikes of ammonium-N, nitrate-N and orthophosphate-P (the latter two possibly fertilizer runoff), iron,and a couple of others.

The iron you can see. The water from the tap turns brown, and then it tests high for Fe+2 and Fe+3. Then a day or so later you get a flyer from the city: "We're working on the pipes in your neighborhood, please ignore any discoloration." So I toss out all those brown ice cubes I made. Well, I do computers now, not chemistry, and no longer have access to a lab. But I still see the tap water turn brown now and then. It strikes me that if there are still spikes of stuff I can see, there are probably also still spikes of stuff I can't see.

I'm grateful to have not-deadly tap water and mindful of the many who lack this, and I drink it and cook with it in preference to untreated wild water. I'm willing to assume without testing that it has a lower coliform bacteria count than the road-runoff creek behind my neighbor's house does. But to assert, as anti-bottled-water zealots sometimes do when they get carried away, that the stuff from the tap is pure as the kiss that waked Endymion... um, no, it isn't that.
posted by jfuller at 6:04 PM on July 3, 2007 [6 favorites]


re:

It still looks tantamount to charging admission to somebody's backyard and then letting them in for half price.

They're the ones who have to deal with the waste products, not to mention the sheer teeth-gnashing frustration that must result from having your nation's aquifer slowly shipped overseas to be enjoyed by celebrities as a status symbol.
posted by tehloki at 6:06 PM on July 3, 2007


Um, they have taps outside your home too. Pretty much everywhere, in fact. And it's generally an even lower price: free.

Hey, if you want to carry around a water bottle and scout for free taps, knock yourself out.

I'd rather not, and if I can pay a few bucks to avoid doing it, that sounds like a good deal to me.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:07 PM on July 3, 2007


on postview again: Stan Chin, you misinterpret me. I'm fairly sure that Nalgene is being used as a generic term for "reusable, thick-plastic water bottle" in this case. Other companies make them too.
posted by tehloki at 6:09 PM on July 3, 2007


Or you could just, you know, say "Water Bottle."
posted by Stan Chin at 6:12 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


But to assert, as anti-bottled-water zealots sometimes do when they get carried away, that the stuff from the tap is pure as the kiss that waked Endymion... um, no, it isn't that.

More interestingly would be statistics on how many people have fallen ill in the last, say, 10 years, from tap water from a major first-world water supply. One would assume that if there had been some major health issue with the drinking water it would be switched off somewhere. And I'm damn sure I would have heard about that. Actually, I do seem to remember something in Sydney for a little while about a decade ago. Don't know the body count. But beyond that, I'm pretty sure actual health problems arising from first-world tap water are pretty minimal.

So what if the water has a little iron? A little nitrate? A little phosphate? Do you have any evidence it would be more than I'd get from eating, say, a carrot?

It's better than it having a little faeces, heavy metals and deadly bacteria, which is what a hell of a lot of people on the planet face in their water supplies.

It's just plain arrogance. People who "can't stand the taste of chlorine" drinking their Evian water before diving for a dip in their swimming pool? Get over yourselves.
posted by Jimbob at 6:15 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Tap water here is vile: tastes like chlorine and has lots of lime.

The gravity feed filters end up costing a lot, too, over time. You have to replace the filters which are quite expensive.

I find that the best compromise is buying a 2-gallon jug of purified water for about $1, then refilling my plastic bottle from that. When I am at work, I refill the bottle from the company water fountain.

That seems to be a fair compromise and costs about as much as using the Brita filters, etc.
posted by darkstar at 6:17 PM on July 3, 2007


Stan -- just for the record, I use a Nalgene water bottle for my bike because water that's been sitting in that bottle does taste better than the water that's been sitting in my other plastic bottles. And I could give piss all about whether or not anybody else knows that it's a Nalgene or not. I only chose the bottle because it was given to me as a freebie, and it's become my preference because it doesn't make my water taste like chemical ass.

I think tehloki is stretching by stating that Nalgene has reached Xerox levels of ubiquity, but I find your assertion that non-outdoorsy people only choose Nalgene bottles due to marketing and/or status consciousness to be equally untenable.
posted by bl1nk at 6:18 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


The argument about Nalgene is a little odd.

In my chemistry career, I became familiar with the positive benefits of Nalgene bottles long before they were widely available at sporting goods stores. Folks were snagging them from the stockroom and using them for camping well before they became hip outdoor gear.

So the idea that someone might discourage someone from using Nalgene now because it has become trendy seems bizarre.
posted by darkstar at 6:22 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


The only problem I have with the local tap water is the chlorination; if they could find a way to keep the water clean without making it taste like drinking from the shallow end of the local YMCA pool, I think many more people would bring a water bottle and refill it, instead of bottled water.

At home, I use a Brita and fill Nalgene-ish bottles. I never quite realized they had become a fashion item; I like them because they don't flavor the water and can be dishwashed. I've seen the metal ones around too (I think they're modeled after the fuel bottles for gas stoves?) and to me they just look hard to clean. I prefer the wide-mouth bottles.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:22 PM on July 3, 2007


OMG, nalgene is Out There now, among the designer bags and iPhones? I had no idea. It was ubiquitous in my lab, anyway, everything from the squeeze rinse bottles to the 500 gallon tank over the water still. Notably, I used it to store reagents that were so corrosive they couldn't be kept in anything else, even glass. I promise you my first impulse, on seeing a clear colorless liquid in a nalgene bottle, is to read the fucking label before I pour out a slug of whatever it is and knock it back.
posted by jfuller at 6:24 PM on July 3, 2007 [4 favorites]


oh my god stop it with the Nalgene argument. Nothing personal, it's just annoying.

I live in Chicago, and 90% of the water I drink comes from the tap, filtered by the Brita pitcher. I won't dare drink straight from the tap here. I once swam in Lake Michigan on this side and I was horribly sick for a day. I'd trust it over in Michigan, but here there's just too much runoff in it.
posted by ninjew at 6:25 PM on July 3, 2007


It's just plain arrogance.

What is arrogant about paying extra for water one prefers the taste of?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:26 PM on July 3, 2007


Bottled water is ridiculous. Back when Dennis Miller was still funny, he made the following point -

"Do you read anything into the fact that Evian is naive spelled backwards?"

I know we westerners never met a hysteria we didn't like. Back when I worked in a Texas BBQ, customers would routinely request that we serve them ruined meat. With all the pink cooked out, beef tastes like shoe leather - but rare meat spooks people, ever since they kinda half-listened to the news about E. Coli and mad cow. As if prions gave a shit about the temperature in the first place.

The same hysteria is part of what drives the bottled water biz. People have gradually come to believe their taps will poison them. And while the plumping in the US ain't perfect, it's also the envy of the world.

And for fuck's sake - it was all glacial or spring water at some point - I'm just waiting for the label that lists "wet" as a feature.
posted by EatTheWeak at 6:28 PM on July 3, 2007


I forgot to add that my main issue with bottled water is the unfathomable mountains of plastic used for them. Sure, some get recycled or reused, but there's no way a large percentage isn't just headed for the landfill.
posted by ninjew at 6:30 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


In regards to Cool Papa Bell and SF-area water: I thought Detroit's city water (who services the area I live in) was some of the best tap water I'd tasted, but when out in Palo Alto / Mountain View visiting friends I was amazed at just how good the water there was. It tasted to me as if it were bottled water.

This isn't to say that Detroit's stuff is bad by any stretch, but it was amazing how good SF's water is.
posted by c0nsumer at 6:32 PM on July 3, 2007


Dihydro Monoxide is evil.

I hear kids snort it with chlorine every summer. I bet they think it'll get them high. Next thing you know they'll be licking frogs.
posted by ZachsMind at 6:35 PM on July 3, 2007


Regardless of the Nalgene argument and the tap water quality stuff, this is my main point:

You ever hear arguments from audiophiles over ridiculously expensive stereo equipment?

It's the same thing with water taste, as it is for any experience. You, are buying a story. The story about how this amplifier weeds out even the most nonexistant noise. The story about how Olive Garden trains its chefs in Tuscany. The story about how water tastes better because it's from Fiji.

To some people, the differences are nondiscernable. All they care about is that the music has a good rhythm, or that they're thirsty and want water. So at some point, whether through fear, marketing, or snobbiness, people get picky about their taste. Is it ridiculous? On the level that there are starving kids in Africa, finish your dinner, yes, of course.

But that's cool, it's fine. I don't think there's a wrong answer here. Is buying water from Fiji and going nuts over the taste of tap water ridiculous? Yeah, of course it is, but fuck everybody. Enjoy it. Because it tastes good to you.
posted by Stan Chin at 6:37 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


> And while the plumping in the US ain't perfect, it's also the envy of the world.

I hear the French and the Chinese are also plumping up pretty good lately.
posted by jfuller at 6:37 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


What is arrogant about paying extra for water one prefers the taste of?

What's arrogant about driving a Bentley when a Toyota will get you to your destination just as well?

Not saying you don't have the right to drive a Bentley should you so wish, but it won't stop me making jokes about the size of your dick.
posted by Jimbob at 6:38 PM on July 3, 2007


Not saying you don't have the right to drive a Bentley should you so wish, but it won't stop me making jokes about the size of your dick.

Oh, you're an envious poor person. Well, uh, carry on.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 6:40 PM on July 3, 2007


I've seen the metal ones around too (I think they're modeled after the fuel bottles for gas stoves?) and to me they just look hard to clean.

I hate those. That kind of bottle is for white gas, not a potable liquid!
posted by flaterik at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2007


And you're a sensitive little dear who can't handle the taste of a little "life" in their water. Carry on.
posted by Jimbob at 6:42 PM on July 3, 2007


I prefer Hydrogen Hydroxide myself, but look! A list of scary sounding names for water!
posted by pantsrobot at 6:46 PM on July 3, 2007


it's become a generic, like band-aid or kleenex. Get over yourself.

I had never heard of Nalgene before this post. Anywhere. Ever.

(Though honestly, if it doesn't make water taste like plastic I'm kinda curious.)
posted by Foosnark at 6:46 PM on July 3, 2007


Iron's good for you. It builds irony.

Tap water here is vile: tastes like chlorine and has lots of lime.

Actually, it's been shown (I assert without looking it up) that people who drink unfiltered hard tap water have lower blood pressure, presumably due to the increased calcium intake.
posted by dirigibleman at 6:48 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


I remember thinking that when I moved to NYC I was gonna have to start filtering my water or buy bottled. I was so pleasantly surprised that the city tap water was the best water I had ever had. I've moved a lot since and it still is the best tasting water in the world.
posted by vronsky at 6:49 PM on July 3, 2007


Also, that P&T episode is bullshit. I had a friend (a fan of the show) do a blind taste test with different waters on me and I never missed one. Try it. The differences were not subtle. That said, I drink straight from the tap and always have, unless there is too much chlorine or the water is brackish, like at the beach.
posted by vronsky at 6:52 PM on July 3, 2007


And you're a sensitive little dear who can't handle the taste of a little "life" in their water.

Why does the fact that others don't all drink the same water you do concern you people so much?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:03 PM on July 3, 2007


My Nalgene bottle plays a role similar to my designer wallet -- it is an indestructible accessory that serves a necessary purpose and has been with me for years and has remained impervious to the abuse I have put it through, day after day. The money I spent on it 3 years ago? Totally, totally worth it.

I do confess to drinking primarily out of bottled water coolers, both at work and at home. Before that, I just drank tap water. Why the change? I moved to Washington, DC and decided that lead was not a necessary dietary additive.

As to how water "tastes," if you drink it cold, it doesn't taste like anything.
posted by deanc at 7:05 PM on July 3, 2007


Wow. Suck it up and drink our heavily chlorinated water and like it, eh?

Whatever. I hope you don't spend exorbitant amounts of money on beverages and foods you like the taste of, when MUCH more bland and tasteless foods and beverages would suffice, and-- oh screw it, what's the point?
posted by darkstar at 7:07 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I personally only drink desalinated Indian white tiger scrotal sweat.
posted by The Straightener at 7:13 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


I dunno. I guess just like it sorta concerns me that thousands of tonnes of perfectly good food are dumped each year to manipulate the market when people are starving and malnourished, it concerns me that one group of people can bitch and moan about the "chlorine taste" of tap water while another group of people have to carry water full of human shit miles each day just to survive.

But that's the way the world works, right? Each to their own.
posted by Jimbob at 7:15 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Best tasting public water... Oklahoma City according to a recent contest, Toronto in third whick I do kind of miss it when I travel.
posted by bobo123 at 7:16 PM on July 3, 2007


Actually, it's been shown (I assert without looking it up) that people who drink unfiltered hard tap water have lower blood pressure, presumably due to the increased calcium intake.

And bigger kidney stones. It's a wash.
posted by IronLizard at 7:17 PM on July 3, 2007


Buying water is stupid if you have a potable municipal source.
All the "I like the taste" and "there's impurities" arguments are crap. Different cities water tastes slightly different, you get used to it in a week, and you could give that $20 a month to some kid with no running water in the 3rd world.
And that is ignoring the dental health benefits.
But there are folk all over so susceptible to marketing they will buy water and even care what brand bottle they store it in.
posted by bystander at 7:21 PM on July 3, 2007


I had never heard of Nalgene before this post. Anywhere. Ever.

I never heard of it except from reading MetaFilter. Perhaps it's not meant for mere mortals. :-)

About the taste of municipal water, in some places I've lived I've noticed it, others I have not. Aside from the chlorine factor, I wonder how much of the taste problem actually comes from the pipes in your own home, not from the utility. My last two houses were 80 or 90 years old and lots of yucky things in the pipes. The water in Galveston sometimes smelled bad, but again, I don't know if it was because of the city water system or because of my house.
posted by Robert Angelo at 7:25 PM on July 3, 2007


Awesome link, thanks.

Others have said their tap water doesn't taste good, so buying bottled water makes sense. (Setting aside they could buy a filter or a Brita pitcher.)

In my case, our municipal supply actually tastes good. I can't distinguish it from bottled water. Yet, I still buy bottled water. I get the cheapest case I can from Albertson's or Costso. Why? Convenience. No, I take that back. Laziness.

The convenience is that I keep some bottles at room temp, and some in the fridge. I can grab a bottle and toss it in my bike bag, or to have with dinner. I could, instead, just reuse a dozen bottles, and fill them from my tap. 6 in the fridge, 6 on the counter. Why don't I?

Maybe I will.
posted by The Deej at 7:26 PM on July 3, 2007


The only thing I like about the idea of bottled water is the pull-open valve tops on some of them -- ideal for refilling with Gatorade made from mix, which is a whole lot cheaper than ready-made. At work just this afternoon, I got a Hmpf! from a co-worker who saw me pass the cooler to refill my desk drinking bottle with the perfectly good municipal water out of the tap.
posted by pax digita at 7:27 PM on July 3, 2007


In San Francisco, the municipal water comes from inside Yosemite National Park. It's so good the EPA doesn't require San Francisco to filter it.

If only the water here in DC were that good – it's an open secret that the detergents they use on our water has been eroding the lead pipes FOR GENERATIONS.
posted by vhsiv at 7:28 PM on July 3, 2007


I dunno. I guess just like it sorta concerns me that thousands of tonnes of perfectly good food are dumped each year to manipulate the market when people are starving and malnourished, it concerns me that one group of people can bitch and moan about the "chlorine taste" of tap water while another group of people have to carry water full of human shit miles each day just to survive.

Nobody is complaining about anything. People were just going about their business, buying the water they prefer. Then, as you may recall, you appointed yourself the arbiter of reasonable consumption and declared bottled water drinkers "arrogant."

Now, I suspect you've made a completely arbitrary and self-serving distinction between your own lifestyle and the lifestyle of those others who consume too much, and I think that's how you relieve your guilt without actually doing anything at all to help the people you claim to be concerned about.

It's a great talking point, anyway. Some people have to wade through shit just to survive! And others have the nerve to buy bottles of water! You probably don't have any idea whatsoever what these two points actually have to do with each other, if anything, but who cares, right?
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 7:29 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Okay. The "there are people without potable water in Africa" argument.

So, I'm assuming you folks will turn off your internets and send the money you save on electricity to starving children in Botswana, now? And perhaps you can emulate Gandhi and weave your own clothes, sending the money you save to orphans in Tibet.

I've served in community development in Africa for 10 years, actually. Howzabout when YOU donate a decade of your life to helping improve infrastructure in a developing country, then you can preach to me about my vice of preferring to buy 2-gallon jugs of purified water instead of drinking the skanky tap water here.

I mean, for God's sake, you can cut the sanctimony with a knife. Get over yourselves, indeed.
posted by darkstar at 7:34 PM on July 3, 2007 [8 favorites]


Of course, if you HAVE spent a significant amount of time in community work in developing countries, kudos. You've earned the right to make judgments on your own choices, not mine.
posted by darkstar at 7:41 PM on July 3, 2007


thanks for the link ericb!
posted by The Deej at 7:45 PM on July 3, 2007


I talked to my mom about this. She buys a 6-pack of plastic-bottled water in a small size that fits in her purse and reuses the plastic bottles with tapwater until they pass on.

I'm on a well which gave both of my cats bladder problems; so, I refill my 3-gallon plastic refrigerator jug about once a week.

I bought that plastic jug when I moved to Denver, long ago, 'cause the tap water tasted like dirt.

I have a plastic water bottle I've been using for some months that's just right...it's got some masking tape on which I magic-markered "Do Not Throw!"...it's plastic.
posted by taosbat at 7:53 PM on July 3, 2007


And you're a sensitive little dear who can't handle the taste of a little "life" in their water. Carry on.

Is that how Australians spell "lime"?
posted by oaf at 7:56 PM on July 3, 2007


At work, they don't provide water, so I buy bottled

So how do you wash your hands at work? That doesn't sound like a very healthy work environment, with no water.

Hey, if you want to carry around a water bottle and scout for free taps, knock yourself out.

That's what I do, except taps don't actually require any scouting. They're everywhere. Are water taps some sort of rare luxury item where you're from?
posted by scottreynen at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2007 [5 favorites]


Different cities water tastes slightly different, you get used to it in a week

You have no fucking clue what you're talking about.
posted by oaf at 8:01 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


And to think many New Yorkers rely on water from roof-top tanks with conical roofs!
posted by ericb at 8:02 PM on July 3, 2007


Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America:

Exactly. I drink soda water. While it may be bottled using water from the surrounding area, I could be drinking water from the tap. And even that, how much water do I really need? I could be using the money saved from water rationing to give to starving children in Africa.

And this quote galls me:

"And buying the merlot may help sustain a tradition in the French countryside that we value--a community, a way of life, a set of values that would disappear if we stopped buying French wines. I doubt if you travel to Fiji you would find a tradition of cultivation of Fiji water.

So, the community and way of life are worth the countless who will die, by the prediction of climate scientists because of global warming, and by the fact that the money allocated to the wine could be directed elsewhere where it would save lives, are worth the way of life for some small population in France?

Here's the main problem: this is a utilitarian argument. Most people will approve of utilitarian arguments for specific cases, but not generals ones, and not specific cases where it will impact them. Granted, I'm guilty of this too: I haven't given away all excess money above and beyond that needed to survive.
posted by zabuni at 8:02 PM on July 3, 2007


I'm surprised that no one has brought up the most reasonable use of bottled water: emergency preparedness.
posted by Tube at 8:09 PM on July 3, 2007


I'm a tap water person if I can, but if I have choice between soda and bottled water, I tend to go with bottled water.

Then again, I lived in Milwaukee at a point where my friends got sick from the water, and who are still suspicious about drinking water when we are out to eat.

And I am just moving out of Madison, where the Water Utility seems to be having some political problems that caused them to whoops! forget to put chlorine in some of our wells (but they assured us that there weren't likely to be any truly harmful bacteria. They think.) and where they are shutting down at least one of the wells that I've drank from because it is really bad.

I have one friend from the neighborhood who claims that's what did her cat in, and why she currently has medical problems - I don't know her well enough to know if it's true or not, but given that we weren't talking about water quality at the time, and that it's before some of these Water Utility issues came to light, I tend to think it's true.

I use a Brita filter at home (and at work) and hope for the best with it, but I don't feel really awful about when I get bottled water over bottled soda.

I am looking for a Nalgene bottle to fit in my car - the ones I've found are either way too small (I drink more than 12 oz water on an hour car ride) or too big to fit in my car's cup holder.

Good article to read for me, though, I drink a lot of water, and I'm a fan of some mineral waters sometimes when I go out instead of beer.
posted by ugf at 8:13 PM on July 3, 2007


Good point, Tube. I bought a 33-gallon trash can -- one of the thick, round industrial kinds -- and filled it up with water from the garden hose. It's my survival barrel. I have a filter I'll use if I ever have to use this water stash.

Otherwise, it's great for when the water is shut off in the neighborhood for the day for pipe repairs, and you want to flush the toilet...
posted by darkstar at 8:15 PM on July 3, 2007


Oh, the trash can in question is the kind with the big round lid, too.
posted by darkstar at 8:16 PM on July 3, 2007


Why doesn't the RIAA hire some of these water marketers? If they can convince so many to pay a dollar for something that is almost free, they should be able to convince people to pay for music where the free alternative is actually illegal.

Different cities water tastes slightly different, you get used to it in a week

You have no fucking clue what you're talking about.
posted by oaf at 2:01 PM on July 4 [+] [!]


I take it you have a delicate palate oaf?
posted by bystander at 8:22 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


There's bottled water and there's bottled water. I'm pretty sure every city would have a company running their own commercial purification operation, filtering tap-water on an industrial scale and filling up the big water-cooler bottles. And if you want to pay for that, then I'm still going to scoff, but I guess it's your right.

But then there's getting water shipped from Fiji or France or New Zealand or wherever. That's what's pathetic. Reminds me very much of that Noka chocolate thread we had a while ago... a fool and his money are easily parted.
posted by Jimbob at 8:30 PM on July 3, 2007


I also haz.
posted by taosbat at 8:33 PM on July 3, 2007


Different cities water tastes slightly different, you get used to it in a week

Dude, you've never had Iowa City water.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:39 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Have you actually had Fiji water? It's really good.

I don't buy it, because it's too expensive, but it's way better than what I do get.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 8:46 PM on July 3, 2007


I'm torn on this one. Usually I think buying bottled water is silly. However, there was a time in my life when I kinda had to in order to do what I was wanting to do.

I used to frequent a ren faire south of Dallas called Scarborough Faire in Waxahachie. Now in the DFW metroplex the tap water is fine. However, on site at Scarborough, the water wasn't fit to bathe in. It was slimy and filmy and if you drank even a few drops of it, you'd get the runs. This isn't good, cuz we were wearing eighteen layers of clothes in late May in Texas heat. You had to keep yourself hydrated or you'd pass out from sunstroke. So it you drank the water on site, you'd end up in the hands of the paramedics. In the early years of of the renfaire this was a major problem, so a solution was built out of necessity.

So the Scarborough Faire Performing Company designated water bearers. It was a team of volunteers whose job was to go around all day and make sure the rest of us were properly hydrated. They were led by a guy who had medic field training background in the military and had also done extensive personal research on what to look for in terms of stages of dehydration and how to combat it. He became like our liason to the onsite paramedics, and saved more than his share of people and situations through his diligence and that of his trained volunteer staff.

Everyone in the performing company was required to undertake safety classes under their tutelage, and instructed on how to keep oneself properly hydrated and what to do if you noticed someone else who was in trouble. We're talking triple digit temperatures and high levels of physical activity under various levels of stress and fashion requirements designed for english weather during the renaissance. Not an ideal combination. We helped one another through it.

We were essentially required to carry a mug of water at all times. If we didn't have one, they'd get some water and put it in our cup, and the water they used was from off site. Bottled water. Either paid for by contributions, or driven in from outside the city of Waxahachie. This was a health issue. In order to do what we had to do to make the renfaire happen, bottling water and importing it was a necessity.
posted by ZachsMind at 8:48 PM on July 3, 2007


i never buy bottled or canned water and i don't care what the budweiser frogs or the miller man rule court has to say about it

MY bottled water's got TASTE to it

(seriously, i think bottled water is the dumbest thing i've ever heard ... what's next? ... rocky mountain compressed air tanks so you can breathe fresh air?)
posted by pyramid termite at 8:51 PM on July 3, 2007


...but if you have access to tap water that doesn't give you the runs, and you buy bottled water anyway cuz you think it tastes better? That's just being silly. =P
posted by ZachsMind at 8:59 PM on July 3, 2007


I can't believe anyone buys any food except potatoes. They're so cheap and so nourishing! You'd a damned fool to eat anything else.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 9:02 PM on July 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


You are all welcome to drink my URINE, it is filtered through my black and disordered GUTS and it is mainly sourced through domestic BEER and BOURBON.

NYC tap water kiddies, unless I am waterless and thirsty and a deli is nearby. I keep a half gallon in the fridge in a glass bottle that I got when I bought some fancy ass beer.

It doesn't seem unreasonable to question shipping water halfway across the world if there is a less wasteful alternative though.

On the subject of water having taste, I've notice that the tap water in New York City has gotten less chloriney in the last few years, it used to have a strong taste to that has gone down (subjectively). I would also say that despite what anyone else says, different waters do have a taste, Fiji water tastes excellent (but I'ma avoid it, that's just me) and Evian tastes like saliva, no matter how cold it is, that shit is THICK and gross!

darkstar,
I don't presume to instruct you, but I do believe it is important to dump out and replace the water in your survival trash can every few months or even more often, if anyone else knows different I'd like to hear it.
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:13 PM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]


Different cities water tastes slightly different, you get used to it in a week

I call nuh uh. Well, maybe you do get used to it, that doesn't mean you should.

Water here in Billings is fine. The next-door community, Lockwood, which has its own treatment facility - yuck. And inconsistently yuck, so I could never get used to it. The chlorine content could be so high at times that showering smelled like a public swimming pool.

And I remember Detroit water was as good, but there was no such thing as bottled water when I lived there. Other than Perrier. And as a teen I did buy Perrier on occassion, and heard no end of grief from my friends about paying for water.

Having lived long enough to go from "heck no would anyone ever pay for water in a bottle" to "what kind of bottled water do you drink?" is really quite stunning when I think about it.
posted by The Deej at 9:22 PM on July 3, 2007


Dude, you've never had Iowa City water.

"Except the water. It tastes like Spic And Span."
posted by eriko at 9:23 PM on July 3, 2007


Sweet jesus, do none of you people have access to the 5 gallon self-serve depots? They're ubiquitos around here: a toonie fills it up. Reverse osmosis, uv-treated, carbon filtered. Tastes great. Real cheap.

Lots of people use them with a powered serving unit that dispenses instant-hot and chilled water.

Myself, I use a Brita at home. I drink a lot of water at home and the Brita works out to be very convenient (fits in the fridge, instead of demanding another appliance) and very cheap (a twenty-dollar five-pack of filters lasts about a year). Makes great water out of our over-chlorinated ick.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:32 PM on July 3, 2007


i think bottled water is the dumbest thing i've ever heard

Bottled water has one real important use. Disaster recovery, where the normally excellent water treatment systems are utterly offline.

Even then, in case of another major citywide disaster, don't donate water. Don't donate anything except cash. A flat of bottle water may be cheap, but it costs *real* money to haul somewhere. With cash, they can get the closest brewery to churn out flats of water, and not pay to haul it hundreds of miles.

A gallon of water weighs over eight pounds. Shipping cash is vastly cheaper, vastly more flexible, and vastly quicker. The $10-$20 bucks it would cost to ship a flat of bottled water to the disaster would put ten flats of water there, if the water is purchased much closer.
posted by eriko at 9:33 PM on July 3, 2007


You are all welcome to drink my URINE, it is filtered through my black and disordered GUTS and it is mainly sourced through domestic BEER and BOURBON.

so, THAT'S why you're Divine_Wino
posted by pyramid termite at 9:34 PM on July 3, 2007


BTW, anyone who has their wits about them will recognize the opportunity to make a shitload of cash by doing a bit of research and becoming the first to bring that micro-business water technology to their town.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:34 PM on July 3, 2007


Divine_Wino writes "I do believe it is important to dump out and replace the water in your survival trash can every few months or even more often"

Words to live by ...
posted by krinklyfig at 10:22 PM on July 3, 2007


Good point, Divine_Wino, about rotating the water. I do change it every now and then, about once every 6-8 months or so. But it could probably use more frequent rotation.

Every now and then, I just go out there and get a bucketful and dump it over my head when I'm working in the yard. Nice!

Actually, it was when I was working overseas that I got in the habit of seeing a large water jar in each family's courtyard. It's what inspired me to set up my own "rain barrel". :)
posted by darkstar at 10:25 PM on July 3, 2007


I don't like doing dishes so I always use plastic cups, utensils, and dishes. Why not? It's easier!
posted by Shakeer at 10:32 PM on July 3, 2007


It's disgustingly arrogant of you to use dishes and utensils of any sort, given that there are children in motherfucking Africa as we speak.
posted by Mr. President Dr. Steve Elvis America at 10:42 PM on July 3, 2007 [3 favorites]


fff, Phoenix area has done exactly that. Water stores have micro water purification setups. You can find them a lot out here.

Of course, keeping hydrated out here in the summer isn't a matter of convenience or fashion, but survival. It was 117 today on my front porch, with humidity in single digits.
posted by darkstar at 10:45 PM on July 3, 2007


I've had tap water so foul that the taste nearly made me vomit on the spot. It was from a hot-springs town, and it smelled and tasted like it had just been torn from the steamy bowels of the Earth. We're talking a flavor sulfurous, acrid, metallic, and vile. Oh, and it stank.

I didn't end up spending enough time there to have the issue come up, but I think I'd have had to use bottled water just to brush my teeth. You can't filter out evil.
posted by Mitrovarr at 10:50 PM on July 3, 2007 [2 favorites]


Water stores have micro water purification setups. You can find them a lot out here.

You can find a lot of them in places like Phoenix, because places like Phoenix have a huge Hispanic population, and that population comes from places where the municipal water systems really are dangerous. Those people come to the U.S. and simply don't know that the U.S. water systems are perfectly fine, apart from some taste issues in some places.

So, all those little "fresh water" stores you see in strip malls in the bad parts of town? They're preying on people's ignorance in the worst possible way, stripping money from poor people that are cowed into paying more than they have to for water.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:51 PM on July 3, 2007


Even though NY water is supposedly the best of the best, it still has metallic taste to it. But that could be because of my very old building. Brita filters have another problem, they get very slightly moldy on the inside if you leave a little water in there. And they're hard to clean. Practically, if I don't forget myself, someone else will leave water eventually. I think it also may be a concern that bacteria will leave in the lower layers of carbon where the chlorine is filtered out already. So basically in 3-6 days the water will taste as bad or worse than tap, although perhaps it will be still healthier. Another thing is that the plastic carafe gets dirty and broken fairly quickly, in about 1-3 months - not completely broken but it always seems to get a crack in it somewhere. And dirt accumulates on the underside and it's almost impossible to clean.

As far as taste goes, I'm making a wild guess here, but this may have something to do with how much spicy, salty food you eat. I'd normally make lentils with basmati rice and broccoli and I find they have enough of taste of their own without *any* salt or spices. But, as soon as you have a single bite of a salted dish, lentils will lose all taste. Same thing may be happening to water tasting. Water is also very important for making good white tea. I'm not talking a super expensive type, but something decent but cheap around $5 for 50 grams (it takes very little of it by weight to brew a large teapot, maybe 1-2 grams). Tap NY water will quite simply ruin white tea.

Anyway, this whole story is bullcrap. Better tasting water means you will drink more of it, and prefer it to soda or wine, and therefore better tasting water is indirectly healthier. Sugary sodas cause health problems which is a hidden cost. Their reasoning that wine is ok but water isn't is pure bullshit. Isn't alcohol supposed to kill brain cells? Does it not in many cases lead to alcoholism? It's ok, they say, because the wine itself costs more than water. So, if I take a small bottle of poland spring, rebrand and sell it for $25, that will make it ok by them?

Countless hundreds of millions of tons of useless shit is being manufactured at great cost and the environment ruined in the process and then it's shipped all over the damn place. But that's fine. When one thing that is the most essential for life and is a healthier alternative to the more popular competitive products - takes off, they go mad. I apologize, but isn't that a little retarded and just a little brain-fucked?

Yeah, I'd prefer it if it wasn't necessary to ship it around & I lived near a spring. Or that tap water would taste like spring water. Rivers of milk, skies of free cheese, etc etc. In practice, with millions of people in the middle of cities with no spring in sight, at least for now, this seems like a best way to go. Maybe it's possible to ship it
more efficiently in large cisterns by train, just make sure it doesn't taste like a steel cistern. Maybe we could do a plastic coating inside? Or have a secondary piping go through just for clean spring-grade water?

So, anyway, what I do is I get home delivery of Poland Spring. It ends up costing me around a dollar a day, but then again I drink a lot of water. I will often concentrate on some work and not eat anything at all from waking up till 9-10pm, and I'd just drink water and tea to keep from getting too hungry. So... tons of water, really. I prefer to refill a glass small perrier bottle. Its shape is neat as hell and it's more solid than plastic bottles, but my second choice would be vitaminwater bottles, those are pretty good, too, and of course that's what I'd take along out of home. At work I'd use either one of these two bottles, too.

By the way, there is a very mysterious thing going on with small poland spring bottles: water in them has a really great taste, but half-gallon bottles have less of that good taste and gallon bottles have neutral tasting water, and larger than gallon, also neutral. If you refill the small bottles, that taste is gone. It's hard to define but it's something in between of freshness and sweetness, but not like that from sugar. Rather like a sweet smell of fresh morning air, *really* great. I even called them and asked about it, (by the way small bottles use different source springs than larger ones!), but of course they didn't say anything substantial. My opinion is that it's the plastic, and in larger bottles there's more water to the same area of plastic so there's less taste.

Anyway, this does not justify $1/small bottle price to me but $6 for 24 small bottles with this great taste is really nice. It's a little disturbing that the taste might come from the plastic, though.
posted by rainy at 11:55 PM on July 3, 2007


I lived without potable tap water for 11 months last year, so I was forced to buy drinking water (though I did boil the water I had for cooking). It royally sucked, especially when I would get sick and needed to stay rehydrated, so now that I've returned home, we drink from the tap out of respect for those who don't have the choice. I got my family to switch - which being in a rather hot part of the country they were reluctant to do - by reminding them to think about how their choice to buy water in plastic bottles that they don't recycle affects places that produce the oil that goes into the bottles, and how bottled water companies aren't super-keen on funding national-scale potable water projects. I don't want to sound holier-than-thou, but it's a little thing we do that keeps us conscious of the world outside our community.
posted by mdonley at 12:59 AM on July 4, 2007


Dasani is a testament to how stupid American consumers are. It was a rare moment of hope when Dasani flopped abysmally in the UK and was withdrawn.
posted by rhymer at 1:15 AM on July 4, 2007


Actually, there are some waters where anyone can taste the difference. Two are Badoit (France) and Vichy Catalan (Spain).

Both are utterly distinctive and, to me, do taste great. But the reason they do so is the that the mineral content is so high, they're slightly salty (and probably not a good choice for people with high blood pressure).

As they do taste of something other than marketing spend, I imagine the average Fiji / Evian / Dasani drinker would spit them out. It's amusing that in a sector where all products claim you can taste the difference, the few where you actually can will almost certainly remain forever niche.

Of course, the French and Spanish who actually like real flavours, love 'em.
posted by rhymer at 1:50 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


NPR's On Point with Tom Ashbrook did an entire show on tuesday about this topic:

The Bottled Water Obsession
(Direct mp3 link)

His guest is Charles Fishman, the author of the article, "Message in a Bottle," which was linked by the poster.
posted by Merik at 2:52 AM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Let me say, as a Soldier in South Korea-- that I drink a lot of bottled water: simplay because I can't tolerate the tap water here. It's beyond bad, both on and off base. I've had medic training (CLS for those in the know) and I wouldn't touch the shit they pass for potable water on our base.
posted by SeanMac at 4:11 AM on July 4, 2007


Barcelona tapwater is absolutely disgusting. Everyone buys big jugs of water from the shop and lugs them home. It's annoying.

Anyone who lives in a place like New Zealand and buys bottled water is an idiot.
posted by dydecker at 4:16 AM on July 4, 2007


bottled water tastes even better because i know children in africa don't have potable water. it's like knowing nike shoes are made with child labour so they feel so much more comfortable.
posted by canned polar bear at 5:18 AM on July 4, 2007


I take it you have a delicate palate oaf?

Nope. You just haven't sampled tap water from enough places to have any clue what you're talking about.

The water in northeast Florida has so much dissolved lime in it I'm surprised I don't have stalactites in my stomach.
posted by oaf at 6:07 AM on July 4, 2007


You can't consider yourself someone concerned with greenhouse gas emissions or global warming if you insist on drinking water that was driven from another part of the country, to a store that you then drive to, served in plastic bottles. That's absurdly irresponsible from an environmental standpoint, and there's no positive way to spin that.

Fine, Potch, but we are scheduled to review your habits for environmental sensitivity next Tuesday. Please be sure to purchase whatever emissions credits are necessary to achieve carbon neutrality before then. Otherwise, you may be branded someone who cannot be concerned with greenhouse gas emissions or global warming.
posted by Slap Factory at 6:23 AM on July 4, 2007


My mother lives on the California/Nevada/Arizona border, and when I was growing up, any tap water you got there, if it wasn't super-bleach-your-hair- and-burn-your-eyes- chlorinated, it absolutely reeked of sulfur.

Which made taking a bath or a long shower something of a misery. And you could forget about drinking it.

(I don't know if it still smells that bad anymore, though. It probably still does.)

So they had a good case for using bottled water.

But I love the taste of our water-filter water. It's especially great if you stick ice cubes (usually made from already filtered water) in and let them slowly melt and trickle down through the filter into the jug. Ice-cold delicious water. Mmm.
posted by Katemonkey at 6:53 AM on July 4, 2007


Actually Louisville's tap water tastes pretty good unfiltered and has lots of dissovled calcium in it. What worries me if I let it is all the chemical wastes from various industrial plants upriver in Pittsburgh, Ashland, Cincinnati, et al. But I just keep forgetting to put a filter on the kitchen faucet, and they don't go on the tap in the bathroom sink anyway. Then too I can't be sure that the whiskey and beer I drink is free of industrial chemicals either, so I just count whatever's in the Ohio River as tasty cogeners. Yummy dicyanopolypropylcancerate!
posted by davy at 7:16 AM on July 4, 2007


Water, well, if it tastes bad, what's wrong with some bottled water? Now, if you ask me, what we really need is a way to deal with this air pollution.
posted by anthill at 7:44 AM on July 4, 2007


re: polycarbonate water bottles

I was actually just at a factory where they are made. the machine does a two part process, first it melts plastic to create these plugs that are like little cone-shaped things, which are then melted again and expanded into the water bottle shape. in this photo, the two little cones in the middle went through the first part and the water bottles on either side are the finished product. Union made in the USA. In the Bronx, in fact. The rest of the photo set has other images of the water bottle production cycle.
posted by snofoam at 7:50 AM on July 4, 2007 [2 favorites]


Cool, snofoam! :)
posted by darkstar at 8:04 AM on July 4, 2007



Dasani is a testament to how stupid American consumers are. It was a rare moment of hope when Dasani flopped abysmally in the UK and was withdrawn.
posted by rhymer


Rhymer, what's wrong with Dasani? It's reverse osmosis filtered watered reconstituted with minerals for taste, as many people don't like the taste (or absence of) pure water. I find it much preferable to tap water where there is no control over what is in there. Which is why tap water tastes like ass and dasani tastes good.

Its also much more ecologically responsible than, say, Fiji water. Many of the big brands do it, and its much more earth friendly, as the water can be bottled on site using any tap water, and the only shipping is the minerals.

But, before you say "well you can just do it at home." Yup, I do that too, with a home reverse osmosis / de-ionizer unit. But I'm not about to try to reconstitute the water myself. I suppose I could. But convenience, you know? The bottled water tastes better; but only slightly, as I do drink the r/o water pretty regularly, refilling my dasani water bottles. In fact, half of why I started buying bottled water was for the inexpensive reusable bottles. Which brings me to . .

(To be clear, that chemical leaching thing is even much more true of the single-use bottles that bottled water comes in -- it's actually not a good idea to reuse them, . . . )
posted by sparrows


This little scare was shown to be fiction a while back. Some students thesis suggested that your average water bottle would pose problems when reused. Turns out his methodology was poor. In fact a much bigger concern is not thoroughly sterilizing your water bottles when washing, so you get a nice build up of bacteria. In other words, you want to do the exact opposite as suggested up thread and use hot water to clean your bottles. Or bleach, you can't beat good ol' bleach for sterilizing, and as long as you let it dry completely and air out, no worries about residues like regular soap.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 8:13 AM on July 4, 2007


I have a whole house water filter/softener that runs the city (Houston) mains water (pretty good, but with high chlorine levels) through red garnet sand, activated charcoal and a potassium chloride softening system. I can fill my insulated Polar (not Nalgene) bottle and leave it overnight without the water smelling like my swimming pool.

We do buy the occasional case of Costco brand indiviudally sized water bottles (local water filtered and purified) for the hurricane emergency supply and because the bottles fit the cup holders in our cars better.
posted by Standeck at 8:42 AM on July 4, 2007


reverse osmosis filtered watered reconstituted with minerals for taste

Put another way, minerals reconstituted with reverse osmosis filtered water. Or, instant water, just add water. :-)
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:48 AM on July 4, 2007


This is an interesting discussion and a fantastic article (thanks allterrainbrain!).

I have this nagging feeling that the ubiquity and acceptance of bottled water is simply preparing us (in the U.S.) for the time when clean water standards are abandoned and factories are once again allowed to dump mercury into the ground.

"Hey, did you read that they found mercury coming out of our tap water?"

"Well duh, you don't actually drink that shit do you?"

I swear to god, travel to India or Mexico and see the future of the United States of America. Happy 4th everyone.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:01 AM on July 4, 2007


Bottled water is ruining America's teeth. The fluoride added to tap water has played a large part in improving dental health.
posted by Mick at 9:24 AM on July 4, 2007


I keep a box of powdered water in my pantry for emergencies. I just can't figure out what to mix it with.
posted by vronsky at 9:31 AM on July 4, 2007


back home, to Chicago, where everyone seems to have a filter on their tap

Chicago actually has excellent water, but Lake Michigan was invaded by the zebra mussel, which actually cleans the water of algae so effectively that bacteria now grow where the Chicago water intake plants are (about half a mile offshore). So around ten years ago the water began to develop an odor or taste that some describe as "potatoey".

I live in Chicago, and 90% of the water I drink comes from the tap, filtered by the Brita pitcher. I won't dare drink straight from the tap here. I once swam in Lake Michigan on this side and I was horribly sick for a day. I'd trust it over in Michigan, but here there's just too much runoff in it.

The bacterial runoff is treated, most of it by that plant right off to the side of Navy Pier. Nobody gets sick from Chicago tap water. I used a Brita pitcher myself, but just for aesthetic reasons (taste/odor), being used to aquifer water growing up in Wisconsin.

Oh, and I can confirm that New York City water is excellent right from the tap, some of the best water in the country.
posted by dhartung at 11:28 AM on July 4, 2007


Matthew Baldwin (I'm sure it was him, but can't find the exact link) once made a list of things you shouldn't have. One of them was a favourite brand of bottled water.
posted by salishsea at 12:50 PM on July 4, 2007


> One of them was a favourite brand of bottled water.

Would that be for drinking, or washing my Escalade?
posted by jfuller at 3:23 PM on July 4, 2007


The very best water I've ever had was from a glacial pool nestled in a cirque at the far end of Elk Lakes park, kinda part of the Kanannaskis range. One side of the cirque was a limestone mountain, largely composed of fossilized sea things (looked like giant barnacles of some sort). At least, I'm guessing that's limestone.

Was delicious. Best water ever.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:18 PM on July 4, 2007


Bottled water is ruining America's teeth. The fluoride added to tap water has played a large part in improving dental health.

I'm pretty sure Montreal would disagree with you.
posted by oaf at 8:26 PM on July 4, 2007


The very best water I've ever had was some lukewarm stuff out of a container on the back of a pick-up at a round-up after a very long day of chasing calves through much dust.
posted by taosbat at 8:50 PM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


The 2nd best was from a Colorado glacier, dripping from the ice into the cup. ;)
posted by taosbat at 8:53 PM on July 4, 2007


&, I don't think the watermelon snow hurt me a bit.
posted by taosbat at 9:20 PM on July 4, 2007 [1 favorite]


Usually I think buying bottled water is silly. However, there was a time in my life when I kinda had to in order to do what I was wanting to do.

Which was... re-creating an impression of 16th century lifestyle?
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 5:25 AM on July 5, 2007


I Googled polycarbonate this morning and was surprised to find this:

"For years, hikers, bikers, campers, and other outdoor recreationalists have favored wide-mouthed water bottles made from Lexan® polycarbonate plastic, like those sold under the brand name Nalgene®. Lexan's advantages have been as clear as the water that flows from containers made from it. It‚s tough, lightweight, absorbs no flavors, and imparts no unpleasant tastes to liquids stored inside. According to new research, it may, however, be imparting unhealthy doses of a chemical called bisphenol-A."

Maybe I should go back to a glass bottle.
posted by swerve at 7:26 AM on July 5, 2007


Evian tastes like saliva, no matter how cold it is, that shit is THICK and gross!

How odd that your palate and my own differ so strongly on Evian. To me, it tastes like nothing at all. It doesn't even taste like *water*. It just tastes like... liquid sensation flowing through my mouth. And it's not thick in the slightest.

I drink bottled water (you can pry my Ozarka from my cold, dead hands), and have ever since a certain night in 2001. I had a... heightened sensory experience and drank some tap water since it was important to take care to be adequately hydrated during this particular sort of experience. I could taste every little thing in it, every mineral and ion and what-have-you, and it tasted *great*! The flavor was very strong.

Afterwards, I could always taste the strong flavor of our tap water, but it was rather disgusting (damn the lack of euphoria). So now I drink bottled spring water. The bottled tap water is nasty and I only resort to it when I can't find spring water in the airport.

And as for nalgene, I think part of why it seems so pretentious is that people fucking capitalize it. We don't capitalize nylon anymore, so get over the fucking nalgene already and join me in a revolution to spell it like an ordinary thing and not something So Super Special It Needs To Be Capitalized.
posted by marble at 2:52 PM on July 5, 2007


you can pry my Ozarka from my cold, dead hands

You don't need to go to such extremes. Ozarka is a Nestle Waters brand. It's pretty much the same as Arrowhead, Poland Spring, etc...
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 2:59 PM on July 5, 2007


"I have this nagging feeling that the ubiquity and acceptance of bottled water is simply preparing us (in the U.S.) for the time when clean water standards are abandoned and factories are once again allowed to dump mercury into the ground."

Somehow I hadn't thought of that yet. Thanks for giving me something else to worry about. But then, hey, come to think of it they might be doing it now even though it's illegal. Maybe I'll switch to drinking bourbon ALL the time, unless I find out Heaven Hill Distilleries gets its water from the tap too.

Did they take the benzene out of Perrier yet?
posted by davy at 8:22 PM on July 5, 2007


From swerve's link: "Low levels of BPA, including those well below the current regulatory safety threshold, have also been shown to affect prostate development, promote prostate tumors, affect breast tissue development and sperm counts, and even possibly create and enlarge fat cells."

What else is made of leach-happy lexan? Maybe that's why I'm chubby, squeaky-voiced, get up at night to pee and will be going up a cup size soon.
posted by davy at 8:26 PM on July 5, 2007


The inevitable Snopes link regarding bottle re-use.
posted by The Deej at 8:27 PM on July 6, 2007


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