Why Bottled Water Should Be Free

Air is free, why not water? The Environmental Protection Agency has laws pertaining to clean air and regulates air pollution through the Clean Air Act. The Clean Water Act stipulates rules regarding keeping the water pollution-free and those who break the law have to pay stiff fines (ASDA). Since the government is charging those companies who unlawfully pollute the water, why doesnt the government pass on this entitlement to consumers who are entitled to the water to begin with? People have to pay their water bills, but they should not have to pay for bottled water that is replacing their paid for water supply which is contaminated. The Safe Drinking Water Act gives the EPA the responsibility of setting national drinking water standards that protect the health of 250 million people who get their water from public water systems.

Other people get their water from private wells which are not subject to Federal Regulations. Since 1974, EPA has set national safety standards for over 80 contaminants that may occur in drinking water. While EPA and state governments set and enforce standards, local governments and private water suppliers have direct responsibility for the quality of water that flows to our tap water systems. They are responsible to test and treat the water, maintain the distribution systems that deliver water to consumers, and report on their water quality to the state. The EPA provides technical assistance to water suppliers and can take legal action against systems that fail to provide water that meets state and EPA standards (EPA.gov/safewater) Wells are not subject to federal regulations. They are the biggest producers and suppliers of bottled water.

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Since they are not subject to federal regulations, how can a person be sure that the water is contaminant free what makes that water better than tap water? Why pay for water that is not regulated nor proven to be better than tap water? Why not just give it away! On World Water Day, the conservation organization has warned that rivers and lakes that provide tap water are becoming increasingly polluted. However, preliminary results from a WWF survey show that the solution does not lie in bottled water. Consumption of bottled water is soaring around the world as consumers, particularly in developing countries, turn to it for safe drinking water. However, though consumers pay anywhere from 500 to 1000 times the price of municipal water for bottled water, in at least 50 percent of cases it is the same standard as tap water with added minerals and salts.

At the same time, the rivers that provide the source for most tap water are increasingly under threat from pollution caused by runoff from agricultural chemicals, poorly managed and sometimes out of date industrial processes, and lack of adequate treatment for sewage and other urban waste (Newsroom, 3/2001). According to Richard Holland, Director of WWFs Living Waters Campaign, It is clear that relying on water from a bottle will not solve problems of safety and access for the consumer. Not only do we need tough global standards for bottled water, but we also need to ensure that the water coming out of our taps and wells is safe to drink. This means taking better care of water sources (Newsroom, 3/2001).

There are serious environmental costs involved with bottling water, i.e . in the absence of environmentally-friendly ways of packaging or disposing of waste adds to the cycle of pollution. Local governments, public water systems, the states and EPA work together toward the goal of ensuring that all public water supplies are safe. For households on private wells, state and local health departments usually have some standards for the drinking water, but it is generally up to the homeowner to maintain the quality of the drinking water. Local governments have a direct interest in protecting the quality of their drinking water source, be it ground or surface water. They may be responsible for overseeing land uses that can affect the quality of untreated source water.

Public water systems have a responsibility to maintain sound treatment works and water distribution networks. They are responsible for ensuring that the water they supply does not contain contaminants at levels higher than the law allows (epa.govenviro/html). It costs $2 per 1000 gallons to deliver water through our faucets. Treatment accounts for about 15 percent of that cost. Other costs are for equipment (such as the treatment plant and distribution system) and labor for operation and maintenance of the system (epa.gov/safewater). Why pay for bottled water at a price of anywhere from 69 cents to $1.00 or more for spring bottled water or water that is distilled? It doesnt cost anything to bottle that water we buy. Example, if water costs $2 per 1000 gallons then per gallon that would equate to 0 all we are paying for is the plastic bottle and then we have to pay for the trash pick up and disposal either through our taxes or through private garbage disposal companies.

Either way, we are paying for nothing absolutely nothing when you consider the outrageous profits the bottling companies are making off the public. Bottled water is sold in supermarkets and convenience stores. Some companies lease or sell water dispensers or bubblers and regularly delivery large bottles of water to homes and businesses. Bottled water is very expensive compared to water from a public water system. Bottled water quality varies among brands, because of variations in the source water used, costs, and company practices (epa.gov/safewater/wot/whatcan). These are the key words brands, variations in source water used, costs and company practices. Each brand has its own price standard, no matter what the quality is. If they use a well, then the price is higher because that is private land and they are using their own source on land they own.

This resource is private and who knows when the source will run out. We are paying for the privilege of exploiting that water supply. If the people who own this land were more environmental conscious, why dont they give the water away to government agencies so they can supply bottled water, free, to people in areas like California where the water is so badly polluted? Why arent the government agencies offering some type of incentive to these private wells and other water sources for the good of the public who deserves the right to drink the water they so badly need? Lets talk about the varying costs from company to company. The price for bottled water, as mentioned earlier, is extremely cheap. Those companies who process tap water through their own filtering system, do so at a very reasonable filter cost.

Their output is so great that the main expenses they have are marketing, packaging and transporting the bottled water to consumers (retailers, wholesalers, businesses, residences, etc.) The cost is in these areas, not in the water they get a $2 per 1000 gallons. They are subsidizing water which is free and putting a pretty label on it to entice people to trust them that it is absolutely pure, more healthy and absolutely perfect. Why doesnt the government subsidize these water bottling companies and give consumers free bottled water? If they are worried about the cost of bottling the water, they can give consumers a small rebate for returning the empty bottles to recycle bins where the bottles can be reused by the government-subsidized bottlers! The plan could be that if you bring an empty bottle, you get a free bottle of water.

Obviously, this plan would work and the bottles could be recycled and the cost to bottle the water would be as cheap as faucet water. Consumers are using bottled water for a number of reasons, including aesthetic and health concerns. Consumers select bottled water in larger quantities after a public water supply notifies the public, as required by the Safe Drinking Water Act, that a maximum contaminant level has been exceeded. Bottled water is also selected as an alternative to other beverages, such as alcohol, juice, and soft drinks (Water Treatment FSQ). It is the position of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators that enforcement of the Safe Drinking Water Act and resultant regulations should rest with the state primary enforcement agency. Sufficient federal grant resources and/or technical assistance should be provided to states to achieve the desired compliance.

EPA should strengthen the state programs, so that consumers dont have to pay for bottled water. They should not have to buy bottled water, at all. But if they do, it should be free the federal agencies should take full charge of water and source facilities and control its regulation in all events. The concept of free bottled water would reduce environmental pollution greatly. People would be less likely to get the bottled water because they would not see an added benefit in getting something they can more easily obtain by turning on their faucets. Thus, bottling processes would slow down and the government could spend their dollars on keeping the water safe and drinkable for the millions of people that need it, daily. Private business should not profit from a natural resource that belongs to every inhabitant.

Resources:

Sources ASDA Position Statements. Online. Available at: http://www.asdwa.org/position.html EPA. Water on Tap: A Consumers Guide to the Nations Drinking Water. Online Available at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/wot/howsafe.html EPA. Where Does My Drinking water Come From? Online. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/wot/wheredoes.html EPA. Safe Drinking Water Query Form. Online. Available at: http://www.epa.gov/enviro/html/sdwis/sdwis_ov.html Newsroom. Bottled Water Consumption Soars as State of Rivers Declines. 22 March, 2001. Available online: http://www.panda.org/news/press/news Turner, Patton (7/19/98). Water Treatment FAQ. Online. Available at: http://www.providenceco-op.com/waterfaq

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