Housing Bust May Boost Return to Tap Water
October 01, 2008
Tap water advocates may find a silver lining in today's economic clouds. The casualties of housing's busted bubble could spread beyond Wall Street to take the last of the sparkle out of the bottled water boom.
Tap water advocates have offered any number of good reasons to kick the bottled water habit. But as long as consumers felt they had the money to spare, they didn't seem to worry much about paying a thousand times more for the bottled stuff.
Since I first wrote about the decline of tap water's brand in 2006, we've seen more municipalities and organizations working to rehabilitate tap water in the public mind. The Dayton, Ohio Water Department launched a "Take Back the Tap" campaign at a city-wide "Live Green Fest" on August 24, which included handing out free re-usable water bottles to the first 1,000 visitors to the Dayton Water Exhibit.
A 20-page report (PDF) by the consumer group Food & Water Watch, titled "Take Back the Tap," is available for download. The same organization recently sponsored a $1500 video contest in which students were asked to produce a convincing story about why college campuses should kick the bottled water habit. 128 contestants posted their entries on YouTube. You can also see the top 10 finalists and the winner posted on YouTube.
Perhaps economics will prompt Americans to look again at bottled water as an occasional indulgence, rather than a total replacement for tap water. They might also reconsider all the other good reasons for taking the tap over the bottle.
People are finally starting to realize tap water's safe; some say safer than bottled. It's been widely reported that the government requires more rigorous and frequent safety testing and monitoring of municipal drinking water than it does of bottled water.
It's incredibly convenient
Tap water is readily available throughout the United States. It requires no special equipment for the end user, and you don't have to carry it with you because it's available in nearly every public place.
It's the environmentally correct thing to do
Bottled water leaves a significant carbon footprint, from the production of the bottles to the long distribution chain to move all those bottles across the nation and even around the world. Then there's the whole bottle disposal issue, whether it goes to recycling or a landfill.
It tastes good
Most areas have good-tasting water. As much as 40 percent of all bottled is simply "purified" tap water; so where's the taste advantage there? Some communities take great pride in the quality of their water.
As I wrote in "You Can Buy 40 Different Brands of Bottled Water at the Water Works Restaurant," it's possible to spend $50 for a bottle of water at Philadelphia's Water Works Restaurant. Here is a water works that was once one of the world's great tourist destinations, in a city where to this day people praise the "delicious tap water." After this week's market fall, perhaps we'll see a few more Philadelphians choosing their city's delicious tap water over the conspicuous consumption of stylish bottles.