Opinion: Bottled water should be used with discretion

Kevin Griffin

Paul HeckertSingle-use plastic water bottles are an epidemic that has grown exponentially in the last 15 years. In some parts of the world they are a necessity, but in the United States we have readily available clean drinking water right from the faucet.

And yet bottled water is a $4 billion-a-year industry in the U.S. The bottles are sold for convenience at the price of a clean environment and our well being.

Municipal water supplies are heavily regulated in the United States. In large cities, water is tested multiple times a day. In no way is tap water subpar to water in a bottle.

In fact, 40 percent of the water in bottles is pulled straight from municipal water supplies – sometimes with further treatment and sometimes without, according to foodandwaterwatch.org.

The FDA exempts the 70 percent of bottled water that is packaged and sold in the same state from regulation. They consider bottled water a low priority and estimate that less than one staff person is tasked with setting rules for the industry. The International Bottled Water Association spent over half a million dollars on lobbying in the last five years to keep lawmakers out of their business. When a government mechanism turns a blind eye to a product that over half of all Americans indulge in, problems arise.

Plastic water bottles are created with petroleum – the same fossil fuel in gasoline. The type of plastic used in most water bottles, polyethylene terephthalate, is known to release hormone disruptors called phthalates, according to the Natural Resources Defenses Council.

Independent tests conducted by the Environmental Working Group also found fertilizer pollution, disinfectant byproducts and 22 synthetic chemicals in bottled water.

Tap water is delivered through energy-efficient infrastructures, rather than shipped long distances. If the transportation of bottled water isn’t wasteful enough, the bottles account for the production of 1.5 million tons of plastic a year, which requires 47 million gallons of oil, according to foodandwaterwatch.org.

Though the recycling rate has increased in America overall, foodandwaterwatch.org reports that 75 percent of plastic water bottles still end up in landfills.

This number can be drastically decreased if people simply fill a reusable water bottle from the tap. If taste is a problem, a simple carbon filter would solve it.

So it is obvious that bottled water is not any purer or safer than tap water, but it is also impossible to completely avoid bottled water. At many large events it is the only option, and it is definitely a necessity in emergency situations. But we can do the environment, wallets and ourselves a favor by keeping its use to a minimum.

Heckert, a sophomore business management major from Cullowhee, is the photo editor.