The Real Cost of Bottled Water

Bottled water is healthy water — or so marketers would have us believe. Just look at the labels or the bottled water ads: deep, pristine pools of spring water; majestic alpine peaks; healthy, active people gulping down icy bottled water between biking in the park and a trip to the yoga studio.

In reality, bottled water is just water. That fact isn’t stopping people from buying a lot of it. Estimates variously place worldwide bottled water sales at between $50 and $100 billion each year, with the market expanding at the startling annual rate of 7 percent.
Bottled water is big business. But in terms of sustainability, bottled water is a dry well. It’s costly, wasteful and distracts from the brass ring of public health: the construction and maintenance of safe municipal water systems.

Bottled Water & Waste

Mound of plastic bottles
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  • Every square mile of ocean contains 46,000 pieces of floating plastic.
  • A plastic bottle can take hundreds of years to break down – and even then, its particles don’t just disappear.
  • Over time, plastic breaks down into smaller pieces that can contaminate our soil, animals, and waterways.
  • Animals often mistake these plastic pieces for food. Once the plastic gets into their systems, these pieces can poison the animal and often lead to its death.
  • 26 billion water bottles are thrown away each year.
  • Only 1/5 of these are recycled.

Plastic is the world’s greatest source of pollution and water bottles make up the largest portion of the plastic in landfills today. As you may know, plastic does not degrade quickly, and may be harming our soil and animals. Plastic particles have even been linked to human health issues, as when we eat fish, for example, we often consume everything the fish has been exposed to – including chemicals leached from plastics. Even though the world has steadily gained more knowledge about recycling, today, most bottles still end up in landfills.

Together, these reasons already provide good incentives to reduce your use of bottled water. But read on – there’s more.

Bottled Water & Pollution

Air pollution
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  • To make 1 bottle of water, 3 times that amount of water is wasted in production.
  • 17 million barrels of oil per year are used in production of bottled water. For reference, this amount of oil could fuel 1 million cars for a year.
  • Water bottles not only need to be produced, but also shipped around the world. Transporting these bottles by means of train, truck, ship, and plane additionally add to air pollution.

Producing bottled water is undeniably detrimental to the environment. Not only do the factories that produce these plastic bottles emit tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere, but once the bottles are filled, transporting them releases even more carbon dioxide into the air.

Bottled Water & Cleanliness

Filling up a cup of clean water
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  • Municipal water plants have stricter regulations on the quality of the water than bottled water companies.
  • The Natural Resource Defense Counsel did a 4-year review on bottled water and found that: 22% of the tested brands contained chemical contaminants at levels above those mandated by the stateand 40%of the tested brands were taken originally from tap water.

Many times, bottled water companies promote their products by telling consumers that bottled water is “purer” and “safer” than tap water. However the regulations surrounding the distribution of tap water are much stricter than the regulations on bottled water companies. Additionally, multiple independent research groups have found that many bottled waters originally came from the tap, and many other brands contain higher levels of contaminants than are permitted at municipal levels.

The True Cost of Bottled Water

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  • On average, bottled water costs about $10 per gallon.
  • Tap water costs less than $0.01 per gallon.
  • Do the math: Bottled water is, on average, 1,000 times more expensive than tap water!

As you can see, bottled water is way more expensive than tap water, and switching from bottled water to tap will save you money. Even if you don’t care about the environmental effects, it’s hard to ignore the potential cost savings here.

What You Can Do to Help

A reusable water bottle
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Now that you know about the known and potential hazards of bottled water, you’re probably wondering what you can do to protect our environment and reap the cost savings. Here are a few simple tasks to help you save money, reduce your carbon footprint, reduce waste in our oceans and soil, and help prevent animals from ingesting harmful plastics:

  • If you are concerned about the cleanliness of your tap water, buy a filter for your sink or buy a pitcher that filters the water for you.
  • Instead of using disposable water bottles, buy a reusable water bottle. There are many types out there such as stainless steel, aluminum, BPA-free plastic, and glass. Find one that best fits your needs.
  • If and when you do have to use disposable water bottles, make sure to recycle them.
  • Finally, share this new knowledge with others around you and encourage them to make these simple changes with you. After all, it’s easier to make a change when your friends are supporting you!