I’ll concede that there was a time in my life (yesterday) when I would buy bottled water in bulk, not because I travel a lot, or because I have anything against tap water, but because I’m lazy, and pulling a bottle of water out of the fridge saves me about 20 seconds that I’d otherwise waste turning on the spigot and waiting impatiently for that goddamn water to fill my glass. And then I have to put that glass in the dishwasher, and then pull it out again after it’s clean. What a hassle!
But after watching Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey’s documentary, Tapped, which explores the bottled water industry, I’m done. Not because I’m a big environmentalist, or because I’m cost-conscious, or because I’m hugely concerned about the health and safety of bottled water, but because drinking bottled water is just dumb.
Like many of you, the idea of a documentary examining the bottled water industry sounds kind of alarmist and laughable. I mean: Damn. We’re talking about water, here. The most plentiful resource on the planet. Huge corporations put water in a bottle and sell it to the consumer at a profit. Big deal. That’s capitalism. Why should corporate America be punished or condemned because we’re lazy consumerist suckers?
But believe it or not, there is something evil and sinister about bottling water and reselling it to consumers — if it sounds too good to be true, then there’s someone in marketing or advertising behind it.
First of all, small towns are getting screwed by the bottled water industry, namely Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and Nestle. They came in years ago and convinced some two-bit backwoods government bumpkin who didn’t think much about the future to sell the water rights to a lake or a spring of a creek, effectively giving certain corporations first rights to all the water in a lake. And you know corporate America: They will drain those fuckers dry, even if it means that the citizens who use that water as their own municipal source are forced to cut back or, in the worst kind of instances, temporarily do without while Nestle guzzles its bath water. And, during droughts, like the one in Atlanta, while there are bans on watering grass, washing cars, etc., a company like Coca Cola is still slurping up 400,000 gallons of water a day from their water sources, making millions of dollars while you’re riding around in a filthy car.
Big deal, right? Those dumbasses in Maine, or Colorado, or Arkansas, or Florida, should’ve considered the fact that water would someday become a valuable, profitable resource. Like oil, only more refreshing. And no: You can’t tax the water. That’s corporate America’s water, you dill-hole. You can’t levy a tax on something that they own, even if it will help the communities from which they are draining water. You know what they say about the average American? Fuck ‘em. That’s what they say.
But get this: 40 percent of bottled water is tap water. In fact, all of the water in Dasani and Aquafina bottles is tap. Plenty of people already know this, but it’s still gotta smart a bit to know that it cost Nestle about six cents to process and bottle a gallon of water, knowing that we pay $6 for that same gallon, when we could get the same goddamn thing right out of our own kitchen sinks. Yes, we’re morons: We’re basically paying these corporations a premium to take what’s already ours, put it in a bottle, and sell it back to us. Only in America!
But consider this, and this is where Tapped is the most informative: On the whole, tap water may actually be safer than bottled water. Why? Because there’s only one person at the FDA that oversees the entire bottled water industry, and that’s only part of her job. Meanwhile, that water you’re drinking in your kitchens is tested 10-15 times a day in every city. For the most part, the bottled water industry is self-governed, and we know how well corporate self-governance works, don’t we, AIG, Enron, Morgan Stanley, etc.? What information are we given as to the safety of bottled water? Oh, there are studies proving that it’s safe. Studies commissioned by the corporations. There are also studies commissioned by the tobacco industry that say smoking cigarettes will make your erections last longer.
But is it safe? Consider not the water inside the bottles, but the actual bottles themselves: They’re made from plastic, which is made from petroleum. There’s plenty of cancer-causing agents — like Phthalates — in those bottles, and when you start talking about the gallon-sized bottles, which are made with a different kind of plastic, you start getting into not just cancer-causing agents, but birth defects, and reproductive problems in men and women. Six-eyed infants aren’t cool, people. And neither is sterility.
And finally, there are the environmental implications, if you care about that sort of thing. Did you know that only 20 percent of water bottles are recycled in the United States? The rest of those bottles wind up in a landfill where those cancer causing agents leech into the soil and kill you, or in the ocean, where the plastics end up infecting the fish, which kills them, which will kill you.
Yes, that’s right: Drinking bottled water will kill you. Somehow, everything does, of course. But you know what? I’m not going to continue to pay 200 times more for something that can kill me when I can get something out of my sink practically for free that won’t kill me nearly as quick.
So, guess what? I’m going to Wal-Mart and buying a Nalgene bottle. That’ll show those corporate America bastards.
(Seriously, though: Great, enlightening documentary. Check it out.)