You Can Buy 40 Different Brands of Bottled Water at the Water Works Restaurant
December 20, 2007
I recently enjoyed a very good dinner at Philadelphia's Water Works Restaurant, housed in the beautiful and historic Fairmount Water Works. On the menu (in fact it's on a separate menu like a wine list) I found more than 40 varieties of bottled water ranging in price from $8 to more than $50.
This restaurant is housed in one of America's first waterworks, a place tourists from around the world once called "Wondrous to Behold." Back in April 2006, I wrote about the waterworks and asked how we had lost our wonder for - and trust in - the miracle of tap water, turning instead to bottled water.
Philadelphia was the first big American city to undertake delivering safe water as a municipal responsibility. The city's "Watering Committee" chose Frederick Graff to build a waterworks on the eastern bank of the Schuylkill River. Graff's initial design called for steam engines to lift water from the river but by 1822 the river itself powered the pumps. Fairmount Water Works, with its beautiful buildings and grounds wedding nature and technology, became an instant international tourist attraction:
- Established in 1801, Philadelphia's water department was the first in America to supply an entire city with drinking water
- Philadelphia's Fairmount Water Works was the model for more than 30 other American water delivery systems
- Fairmount Park, one of the nation's largest urban parks, was established to protect Philadelphia's drinking water supply
Bottled Water's Environmental Backlash
In a Nov. 3, 2007 article, Philadelphia Inquirer Staff Writer Sandy Bauers pointed out the irony that Philadelphia's Water Works restaurant now claims to be "the nation's largest water bar" with 42 brands from Norway, New Zealand, Italy, South Africa, and Fiji.
"Water is dubbed the new wine in culinary circles, and each has a distinct flavor, a specific food it complements," owner Michael Karloutsos told her. She reported that nearly eight of 10 customers buy bottled water."You don't have to take anybody's keys when he drinks two bottles of water," Karloutsos said.
At our dinner, we had several bottles of the $8 Voss from Norway. Both still and sparkling varieties were delicious and a lot less costly than the wine we had with the meal.
Is Bottled Water the Next Wine?
In Experts say the nuances of bottled water are like wine, an Associated Press article dated Oct. 16, 2007, Michele Kayal discusses the nuances of water as a luxury drink:
- Potassium gives water a sweet taste
- Silica imparts silkiness
- Calcium can give water a lactic taste some people find refreshing.
- Others enjoy the cleansing quality of water with a high sodium content.
Kayal writes, "Long a staple of European tables, bottled water was popular in the U.S. during the early 20th century, but vanished during the Great Depression. It resurfaced during the 1970s, when Perrier was photographed in the hands of glitterati.
"During the past five years, consumption surged 59 percent, making it America's favorite beverage after soda. In 2006, Americans quaffed 8.3 billion gallons of bottled water.
"In the United States, consumers can now pick from about 350 varieties of bottled water, ranging from purified tap water (such as Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani and Pepsi's Aquafina), to waters bottled from particular sources."
For those interested in becoming connoisseurs, the article includes a sidebar, "TIPS for Appreciating Bottled Water."
In Praise of Tap Water
The Illadelph, a weblog about the city of Philadelphia, posted an article, In Praise of Philadelphia's Delicious Tap Water and It's Totally Negative Carbon Footprint:
"If you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents…. ABC News crunched the numbers — taking into account mileage and fuel requirements — and found that even before you drink that one-liter (or a 33.8 ounce) bottle of French water in Chicago, you've already consumed roughly 2 ounces of oil. And that doesn't include the oil used to make the plastic."
One estimate shows it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil to make a year's worth of bottles for the $10.9 billion-a-year bottled water industry in the United States.
The Fairmount Water Works Interpretive Center is a neighbor to the Water Works Restaurant and offers its own bottled water - free - labeled "PhillyTap." According to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Bauers, the bottles are distributed by the city water department:
"Philadelphia public water has a bit of an image problem - 20 percent of Philadelphian's still refuse to drink it. Never mind that, in at least 10 years, the Water Department has had no health-based violations. Or that Philadelphia's water ranked 12th among 93 cities in a Conference of Mayors taste test."
Orange County Register puts reuse on Front Page
December 07, 2007
The Orange County Register puts wastewater reuse on the front page today in a big way. Their story here. The reader comments here.
The main deck on the front page reads:
"They’ve overcome squeamishness about the idea and objections to the $480 million cost. Now water engineers are about to turn on what they say is the largest plant of its kind in the world, pumping up to 70 million gallons of drinkable water… Along the way, it will be screened to remove solids, squeezed through reverse-osmosis filters, zapped by ultraviolet light and percolated into the ground."
Sewer Leaks Blog
"Los Angeles Wastewater News"