Bottled water: 1000 times more expensive and 1400 times more polluting than tap water

There are things that are difficult to digest, but if it is water, it can be difficult to swallow.

Despite its growing popularity around the world, bottled water is not a good alternative for the environment. To quote the Office of Sustainability at Harvard University, “the entire life cycle of bottled water uses fossil fuels, causes pollution, and contributes to global warming.”

Although water bottles are recyclable, in most of the world, they end up as polluting waste: Americans (who use 1,500 water bottles per second!) Throw away around 80% and in Argentina that figure exceeds 90%.

About 17 million barrels of oil are used in the US and in Argentina about 10 times less (1.6 million barrels per year!) To produce the plastic used to meet the annual demand for bottled water. To this number should be added the fuel consumed in the distribution of the product.

In sum, bottled water requires 2,000 times more energy to produce and distribute than its tap counterpart. The extraction and manufacturing processes used by bottled water companies can also have negative environmental and economic effects, not to mention amounting to the privatization and commodification of a limited and invaluable resource to which everyone should have a universal right.

In this context they cannot be ignored the conclusions of a recent research work: The impact of bottled water on natural resources is 3,500 times greater than that of tap water.
The study, the first of its kind, examined the impact of bottled water in Barcelona, ​​where it is becoming increasingly popular despite improvements in tap water quality in recent years.

An investigation led by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health (ISGlobal) concluded that if the entire city population drank bottled water, the cost of extracting resources would be 3,500 times higher than if everyone drank tap water, adding about $ 85 million in annual expenses.

If instead of monetizing the extra cost for the city, the environmental impact is measured, the environmental footprint of bottled water in ecosystems is 1,400 times greater than that of tap water.
The authors concluded that reducing environmental impacts more than compensates for the low risk of bladder cancer associated with drinking plain water. The drinking water treatment process, when chlorine is used as a disinfectant, can generate the presence of trihalomethanes (THMs), which have been associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer. The European regulation of sanitary criteria for the quality of water for human consumption, as well as the Argentine Food Code, sets a maximum permitted concentration of total THMs of 100 µg / l.

The study’s lead author, ISGlobal researcher Cristina Villanueva, said: “There are no health reasons to justify the widespread use of bottled water. It is quite obvious that the environmental impacts of bottled water are greater compared to tap water. “

Villanueva added: “We need more active policies to change this situation. For example, in Barcelona, ​​we could have more education campaigns to raise public awareness that the health benefits of drinking bottled water are minor compared to the environmental impacts. We need to improve access to public water, to public fountains, to public buildings where you can bring your own bottle and not need to buy one ”.

The Economic Equation

When clean and safe water is not available, drinking bottled water becomes a necessity. However, the average consumer does not buy bottled water out of necessity, but because it is convenient and is often marketed as purer or more nutritious than plain water, despite the fact that many times it does not even come from the attractive sources that use it. consumers suppose. And of course, it is substantially more expensive.

For reference, in Córdoba, the price per liter of bottled water is about 1000 times higher if purchased online (about $ 40 / liter) up to 2500 times more expensive if purchased at a kiosk. The reference is between 2 and 4 cents that the surplus of consumption that Aguas Cordobesas bills for each liter that leaves our Cordovan taps costs.

Screenshot of mineral water offers in Córdoba
Screenshot of mineral water offers in Córdoba

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