The Hidden Costs of Bottled Water

January 23, 2013

Lindsay McNamara discusses the hidden costs of bottled water and the industry's danger to the planetBottled water may sound convenient, especially when you’re running out the door, but there are some serious downsides. Did you also know there are hidden costs to the bottled water industry? Lindsay McNamara, a “20-somthing environmentalist,” discusses these particular findings on her blog, and the environmental dangers of the industry.

Bottled Water? What’s next? Bagged Air?

In college, I was involved with the Delaware Environmental Institute Student Programs Committee, where we encouraged students to become more “bottled water aware” and offered alternatives to buying bottled water (see Bottled Water Awareness on Campus). After graduation, I began working for an ocean advocacy non-profit, where we also try to discourage our network of citizens, businesses and organizations from buying bottled water.

But why?

A lot of bottled water companies boast using “mineral water” and “natural spring water” in their product. That water has to be safe to drink, right? And when I’m in a hurry to leave my house, bottled water is just so much easier and more convenient than filling up my own stainless steel bottle or Nalgene. What’s so bad about that?

Well, consider this…

-The U.S. bottled water industry consumes over 50 million barrels of oil a year, enough oil to fuel 3 million cars for one year.
-The EPA estimates that nearly a quarter of one popular brand of bottled water, for example, originally comes from tap water at a price at least 300 times the cost of tap water.
-The recommended eight glasses of water a day for one year costs about $1,400 in bottled water versus only 49 cents in tap water.
-The composition of tap water, which is regulated by the EPA, is also more closely monitored by the government than bottled water, which has looser restrictions imposed by the Food and Drug Administration and only when the bottled water is shipped across state lines.
-The plastic the bottles are made from contains unhealthy synthetic chemicals like BPA and phthalates (endocrine disruptors that have been linked to breast cancer, prostate cancer, autism and obesity), which may leach into the water or the environment after disposal.

The environmental, health, and economic costs of bottled water listed above are considered “hidden costs” of the $11.7 BILLION (!!) industry. Check out this really awesome video that further explains the idea of a “hidden cost:”

You can read facts and figures from the video here.

Not convinced yet? There are cities in the United States that are banning the sale of bottled water because it is so harmful. Earlier this month, Concord, Mass. became one of the first communities in the U.S. to ban the sale of single-serving plastic water bottles.

My hope is that other cities follow suit, until the United States has banned bottled water completely. If we allow this industry to continue to grow, what would come next, bagged air?

-Lindsay McNamara

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Lindsay McNamara graduated from the University of Delaware in May 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts in Environmental Studies. McNamara enjoys hiking, taking photos, and learning as much as she can about environmental issues.  Jersey Girl born and raised, McNamara is now a proud “local” living at the beach in NJ.