Bottled Water is Tap Water?
Nearly half of all bottled water sold in the U.S. is tap water! Nearly half! According to Food and Water Watch, tap water’s share of the bottled water market grew from 32.7% in 2000 to 47.8% in 2009. In all 2.5 billion gallons of municipal water – which taxpayers pay to treat – is bottled and sold for at least $1 per gallon, often much more. Conveniently this same water is delivered directly to your home for a penny or less per gallon. As Food and Water Watch executive director, Wenonah Hauter explained, “These figures reveal that more and more bottled water is basically the same product [that] flows from consumer taps, subsidized by taxpayer dollars – then poured into an environmentally destructive package, and sold for thousands of times its actual value.” Also the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the nonpartisan research organization that serves Congress, has recently concluded a yearlong investigation surrounding the bottled water industry. The investigation looked into the concerns about bottled water: bottled water is not necessarily safer than municipal water and plastic bottles are environmentally destructive. The GAO found that perceived health benefits are the reason for the increase in the consumption of bottled water. On paper, the Food and Drug Administration limits contaminants in bottled water to mirror the limits the EPA enforces. However, the GAO found that what is on paper isn't always what is happening. For example:
- The EPA has set limits on phthalates in water, but the FDA has stalled for over 15 years on publishing a limit on DEHP (a phthalate) in bottled water. DEHP is an ingredient in plastic and studies have linked it with obesity, male fertility, and other problems relating to hormonal imbalances.
- The EPA requires drinking water supplier to use certified labs to test municipal water, while the FDA does not have this authority. And does not require test results to be reported!
- The EPA requires public drinking water systems to publish annually the results of their water quality testing, but the FDA does not require this of bottled water companies.
- Many states encourage the recycling of carbonated beverages, like soda and beer, with deposit laws. However, these “bottle bills” are much less common for bottled water, resulting in about 75% of water bottles being thrown in the trash, rather than the recycling.