Operation Water Pollution – Part 4

Bottled v. Tap
The reason people drink bottled water is because they believe bottled water is healthier than tap water. Most often this idea is false.

Health
Incidents of drinking water contamination such as the E coli outbreak in Walkerton, Ontario and the Cryptosporidium outbreak in North Battleford, Saskatchewan have done a lot to cause people to think that their drinking water is unsafe. Large cities rarely have a problem with the water coming out of the taps. It is smaller communities and First Nations communities that have a greater chance of drinking water issues, just look at Saddle Lake, Alberta or Kashechewan, Ontario.
When incidents of drinking water contamination occur, the sales of bottled water go up because people begin to question the safety of their drinking water. Bottled water companies take the opportunity presented by an incident of contamination to create more doubt in the safety of drinking water and to promote the safety of bottled water. However, there is no health advantage to drinking bottled water. The regulations surrounding bottled water quality are insufficient. Would you drink bottled water knowing that the company can bottle water containing E coli and Cryptosporidium? Or that they only have to test their water once a week for bacteria?

People have become ill from drinking bottled water. In 1994, there was a cholera outbreak in Saipan a United States territory in the Marianas Islands (http://www.nrdc.org/water/drinking/bw/appb.asp). The cause was found to be contaminated bottled water and only those people who drank the bottled water became sick.

Cost
Aside from the poor regulations there is also the cost of bottled water. In 2005, Canadians spent 653 million dollars on 1.9 billion litres of bottled water. The companies producing bottled water often increase the price and people can spend 240 to over 10,000 times more for bottled water than for tap water.
Not every one in the world has access to clean, safe drinking water. The World Health Organization along with the United Nations and UNICEF estimates that it would cost 1.7 billion dollars per year (above current spending) to provide clean drinking water to every individual in the world. Improved sanitation would cost another 9.3 billion dollars. The 11 billion dollar total sounds like a lot of money but is actually only 24% of the 46 billion dollars that bottled water is worth.

Sources: Bottled Water a Fact Sheet from the Safe Drinking Water Foundation Natural Resource Defense Council