Eco Trip: Bottled Water

Eco Trip a Television Series released in 2009 by the Sundance  Channel hosted by David De Rothschild gives a fresh and exciting perspective on common commodities such as gold rings, t-shirts, Paper Napkins, Cell Phones, and Chocolate. Approaching the perspective from development, environmental impact, consumer understand and scientific relevance these 30 minute episodes will increase your understanding of common daily commodities. 
Bottled water for instance was recent episode which compared Bottled water to Tap water, the impact of bottled water on the environment. In the last year alone bottled water annual sales were consuming 30 million liters of water. Over the last decade, annual sales increased 177%  that is roughly 9 billion gallons per year. 
What you don’t hear from bottled water companies is the difference in water quality and the life cycle of the product. 40% of all bottled water in the United States uses tap water to fill their products. Peter Gleick founder of Pacific Institute was interviewed and discussed that there is no difference in bottled water or tap water taste. Pay no attention to the advertisements on the label, the newspaper aids, and the billboards bottled water and tap water taste alike but are regulated differently. Tap water is more regularly regulated than most bottled water; 90% of US tap water meets EPA Standards for water quality.The Hetch Hetchy reservoir that provides 85% of San Francisco’s water  falls under EPA regulation and is required to completed 487 water samples of the entire source monthly (only source sampling). Bottled water falls under FDA regulation and is required to be tested once a week.
8 out of 10 Bottles end up in Landfills or incinerated, 98 million bottles per day and 37 billion bottles per year. Not to mention that each of those bottles takes 500 years to decompose. Most water bottles are sold in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles. According to the Pacific Institute, the US water bottle industry requires 17 million barrels of oil per year. Recycling one plastic bottle can save enough energy to power 60 watt light bulb for six hours.  The energy cost associated with bottled water is even more interesting. The Beverage Marketing Corporation noted that the US bottling companies acquired 900,000 tons of PET Plastic last year alone (typically production is associated with natural gas and petroleum). Manufacturing/ production cost releases 2.5 million tons of Carbon Dioxide and requires 3 liters of water to produce on a liter of bottled water. The Plastic Manufacturing industry notes that it takes around 3.4 megajoules of energy to make a typical one liter bottle, cap, and packaging. One gallon of oil can generate 6,000 megajoules of energy. After manufacturing, packaging comes transportation and refrigeration. All energy used in the water bottle industry would consume around 50 billion barrels of oil per year, enough oil to run 3 million vehicles for a year. 
Bottled water is having a huge impact on the environment and ecosystems because it breaks down and contaminates natural environments. Birds (albatross) commonly mistakes plastic caps and wrappers as food and consumes the products and in turn the animal suffers a slow death. The Great Eastern Garbage Patch, is where ocean currents have redirected all of this waste into one area (twice the size of Texas) in the ocean.  Oakland California introduced the Continuous Deflection Separator sewer system that is a catchment design system that uses natural water energy to remove solid waste from waste streams before they can reach the ocean or other bodies of water. Also, Gavin Newson began a campaign at San Francisco City Hall to stop purchasing Bottled Water, and now his campaign has affected 12,000 other city halls across the US.
The financial cost of bottled water is 10,000 times more expensive than tap water; it is under-regulated, not properly labeled and is extremely harmful to the environment. The United States is the largest consumer of Bottled Water, in 2008 water bottles sales exceeded sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks. The water bottle market is heard to stay, that being said we must require a labeling system to decipher the source and quality of the water so that you better understand what your purchasing.