In Praise of Tap Water

Adapted from the Pure Water Occasional for April, 1011.

From the press release announcing American Water’s 125th Anniversary celebration:

“The seemingly small decision to drink tap water rather than bottled water can have a major impact on the environment,” commented Dr. Mark LeChevallier, director of Innovation and Environmental Stewardship for American Water.

“Disposable plastic bottles are burdening our landfills and increasing fuel consumption through their production and delivery.” More than 1.5 million gallons of oil are used each year to produce the disposable plastic water bottles consumed in the U.S., and significant amounts of fuel are required to transport the bottles, as well.

“Additionally, consumers can realize significant savings by relying less on disposable water bottles and more on tap water in refillable bottles. Tap water is typically available from the faucet for less than a penny a gallon as a national average. Depending on the brand, bottled water costs 250 to 10,000 times more than tap water. Consumers drinking their recommended eight glasses of water a day from the tap, may spend approximately $3.65 (based on a glass of water being 8 ounces) a year. Purchasing the same amount in bottled water can add up to $1,400 annually. Ounce-for-ounce, bottled water can cost more than gasoline or even milk.” 

The Occasional’s Comment: Assuming even a five to one usage ratio, home-produced reverse osmosis water would cost (according to American Water’s figures) about $18 per year vs. $1,400 for bottled water. This puts all the “RO wastes water” concerns in a different perspective. From the environmental point of view, saying “I don’t want to waste water with a home RO unit, so I’ll drink bottled water,” ignores the water and energy used in producing the bottled water and the bottle, plus the large energy expenditure for transporting it to the consumer. Long live tap water, but make it better than bottled water by treating it in your home with a point-of-use drinking water filter or reverse osmosis unit.