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The Race is on – Tap Versus Bottled

2011 August 15

The City provides public water fountains in order to promote tap water over bottled water. (EPA Photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Kasia Broussalian

If bottled water companies have their way, drinking fountains may go the way of the pay phone. This is a startling realization, as more and more public drinking fountains in office buildings, parks, and airports stand unused. The environmental impacts from a primary consumption of bottled water are astronomical, and, truth be told, the water in there is not all it’s cracked up to be. Is bottled water any better than the stuff that comes straight from your tap here in New York City? Not usually. Though labels claim that their water comes from fresh mountain springs, 25-40 percent actually comes directly from municipal water sources—in other words….it’s the same thing coming out of your tap. And you already pay for it. In addition, the Federal Drug Administration monitors bottled water quality, while EPA monitors the municipal source. Not to brag, but in many cases, our codes are stricter.

So far, it’s tap 1, bottled 1. Pretty evenly matched. But what about the sustainability aspect? Many people claim that plastic water bottles are recyclable, and therefore, not a strain on the environment. Silly people, even if everyone did recycle their bottles (they don’t, not even close) it’s not just the bottle itself that takes a toll. It’s the manufacturing, the trucking, the shelving and the marketing. At the end of each day, the U.S. has accumulated 70 million empty water bottles, 86 percent of which are not recycled.  To meet this demand for plastic, enough oil to keep 100,000 cars on the road for a year must be used. Now, think for just a minute—is all that worth it when you can pour the same, if not better, water right from your taps into a reusable glass?

Tap: 10, bottled: 1.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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2 Responses leave one →
  1. David permalink
    August 16, 2011

    I use plastic water bottles. Some times. OK, hear me out. No haters jumping on me just yet, alright? I recycle. I re-use. I urge bottle manufacturers and environmental organizations to figure out an environmentally sustainable way for consumers to continue to enjoy water as a healthy alternative to sugary sodas and other drinks. Please don’t force conservation through a ban on plastics. Again, I re-fill my water bottles. At the Yankees game I bought a bottle of cold water. Glad I had that as an option rather than buying a sugary soda which is bad for me. I live in NYC and drink tap water. Filtered first. You see, I hate the taste of chlorine that comes from tap. I won’t drink room temperature or slightly chilled water. It has to be COLD! For my health, I only drink water. Chlorine free, chilled water.

  2. August 18, 2011

    Being over 55 years old I remember the days when there was no bottled water. And to even suggest you could sell bottled water would result in side splitting laughter. Who would by something you can get for free? If my memory is correct the first company to successfully sell bottled water in the US was Perrier. Now it seems everybody is selling bottled water.

    When I’m at home I always drink tap water but when I go out I do take bottled water with me because of the convenience. I do reuse the bottle, and if available, refill with tap water. Tap water is good but I can’t remember the last time I saw a public drinking fountain. There’s no going back but I do think it is productive to promote recycling and reusing of the bottle to fill with tap water. Small changes can make a big difference.

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