A startling new report by the non-profit organization Corporate Accountability International has put a price tag on the bottled water purchased by Congress in one year. Turns out, it’s nearly one million dollars, or about $2000 per member.
That’s a lot of bottled water.
The report, entitled “Tapping Congress to Get Off the Bottle,” calls on Congress to kick its bottled water habit and claims that there is a corporate push to “turn water from a human right into a profit-driven commodity.”
It paints a nefarious picture of bottled water marketing practices, claiming the industry has been working to convince consumers that bottled water is more pure than tap water despite no evidence to support the claims. The takeaways from the report: Bottled water costs over 1000 times more than tap water per fluid ounce and uses more than 2000 times more energy to produce; the purity of tap water is better regulated; and in fact, most bottled water is filtered tap water, anyway.
Not surprisingly, a coalition formed by the International Bottled Water Association called Bottled Water Matters has taken issue with the report. In fact, the organization counters, “At a time when obesity, diabetes and heart disease are so prevalent, the consumption of water, whether from the bottle or the tap, is a good thing, and any actions, such as CAI’s report, that discourage people from drinking bottled water are not in the public’s interest.”
After the purification process, there’s a big difference between tap water and bottled water, IBWA says, and suggestions that bottled water isn’t as well regulated as tap are patently false. Not only does it contend that the CAI overstates the oil use in producing bottled water (54 million barrels each year), it says bottle water plastic container recycling is up to 31 percent, double the rate of five years ago. In the end, it argues, bottled water is good for the nation’s economy: “In 2009, the bottled water industry was responsible for as much as $130 billion in total economic activity and generated over $12.7 billion in property, income and sales taxes in the US.”
But according to a Scientific American article, bottled water is ripping off consumers to the tune of 1900 times the cost of tap water, and bottlers aren’t revealing where their water comes from: “…18 percent of the 173 bottled waters on the U.S. market today fail to list the location of their source; a third disclose nothing about the treatment or purity of the water inside their plastic bottles.” The Natural Defense Council reports that 90 percent of the money consumers pay for bottled water actually covers everything but the water itself: bottling, packaging, shipping, marketing and other expenses, and profits.
There are a lot of issues at work in the bottle vs. tap debate. Which camp do you fall into: Do you buy the idea that the pro-tap folks are discouraging water drinking, or do you think the bottlers are going on the offensive to hide environmental misdeeds?