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Bottled water is stupid

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I have detested bottled water since their popularity in the late 90s, when people started walking around with bottles as if they couldn’t find potable water WITHIN WALKING DISTANCE OF ANYWHERE. Now I have some data to back up my disgust:

Ounce for ounce, it costs more than gasoline, even at today’s high gasoline prices; depending on the brand, it costs 250 to 10,000 times more than tap water. Globally, bottled water is now a $46 billion industry.

Read the full NYTimes article (via This is Broken)
UPDATE: CBS News has a good article on this topic

PS–I’m back from vacation

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16 Comments

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  1. Unfortunately our tap water is not the best and after treating my dog for several UTI’s, the vet recommended bottled water for her. I was already using a PUR filter but unfortunately it wasn’t enough. Since switching several month ago, we haven’t had any more problems. I buy it by the gallon at WalMart for 58cents. It does add up but not nearly as much as the vet bills and antibiotics!

  2. Bottled water is a scam – you can buy the same type of Reverse Osmosis/Deionizing (RO/DI) equipment and install it in your kitchen for about $250 + roughly $40/year (or 5000 gallons) for filters. So, if the system (very conservatively) lasts you 5 years and if you use all of that capacity you’re paying less than $0.02 per gallon.

    But lets be realistic knowing that you’re willing to pay $0.58/gallon for the water. The annualized cost of water treatment is $90, dividing by $0.58, and then by 52 weeks is 3 gallons per week. So, if you’re buying at least that, you could have filtered for the same price and not have to lug 24 pounds of water home from the store.

    Add to that the benefit of all the extra capacity to use for drinking yourself, cooking, watering your plants, whatever… and filtration systems are a huge bargain.

  3. Wow–how interesting. Ben, I came to a totally different conclusion: Why even buy bottled water?

    Of course you might buy it when you go out once in a while, etc.

    But for normal daily tasks like cooking and drinking (and watering your plants??), isn’t tap water good enough?

  4. I’m not suggesting that anyone buy bottled water – but there are any number of reasons to justify using purified water. Drinking water quality varies widely from city to city – and is affected further by the miles of pipes between the source and your faucet. Chlorine tastes bad – high concentrations of dissolved minerals and metals taste even worse. Sure, it’s all potable – but paying a few cents a gallon to make it taste better is obviously worth it to a lot of people.

    As for plants… (unpolluted) rain is basically pure and it’s the natural source of water for most plants.. so I would say that if you had access to filtered water that was effectively free that you may as well use it since it’s (probably) better for your plants.

    Anyway.. Judy was saying that her water was so terrible that it was detrimental to her dog’s health. I was just providing an alternative.

    Me… I drink tap water most of time.

  5. I have a bottled water rotation system. My wife and I buy a pack bottled water from Costco every 6 months or so. I refill the bottles by bringing home filtered water from work every day in a big thermos bottle. The water is just as good as bottled. After a while, the bottles get kinda nasty and we recycle them and get another set at Costco. It’s kind of a balance (but it’s really for the bottles since we don’t feel bad if we loose them).

    I also sometimes get Pelligrino which is SUPER expensive, but worth it once in a while. It’s great when it’s super chilled on a hot day.

  6. Bottled water for a pet!? That’s ridiculous! How can people spend so much money on a stupid animal when there are people dying in Africa? Americans waste more than $300M on pets a year. Imagine what that can do for poverty…

  7. Some people enjoy spending time with their pets, it’s a hobby and it costs money. There’s no point in criticizing someone for what they enjoy doing if it’s not *directly* harming other people. Otherwise you may as well point the finger back at yourself.

    Some might say that having a computer and paying for electricity and internet access is a waste of money. After all, there are people living on less than a dollar a day. You could feed, clothe and shelter someone in a 3rd world country for what most people spend on internet access. And then there’s the time – why not go do charity work instead of wasting time reading blogs all day?

    If there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s not to knock what anyone spends their time or money on — what’s wasteful to you is essential to someone else — and vice versa.

  8. Well said Ben. I would not rely to much on filtered/bottled water. The only way to get pure water the way nature intended is by getting a water distiller. The initial purchase is well worth it in the long run.

  9. I drink bottled water about half the time. This is usually becasue 1) I percieve the tap or location to be ‘unclean,’ which in turn makes me feel like the water is dirty 2) I’m buying a drink and I don’t like soda and so my only alternative is water.

  10. Ramit, I always carry a bottle of water, that I filtered at home. And I will never hesitate to buy a bottle of water from a store when I’m out of my home and my bottle of water has run out.

    Unfiltered water might have many impurities in it and I think by using a filter, you are saving plenty of money because you wont fall sick because of impure water.

    I’ve read/heard many horror stones of kidney stones that were produced by drinking tap water, unfiltered.

  11. A few years ago, me, my then-fiance, my cat, and my guinea pig all got kidney stones around the same time. We all switched to bottled water. No more problems.

    So, I am definitely a proponent of bottled water.

  12. While tap water is certainly bacteria free, despite what anyone tries to say, it is still not as healthy as bottled. Tap water goes through many miles of old pipes and is treated with chlorine and flouride. A lot of places have a hard water as well, which contributes to your kidney stones. People claiming tap water is just fine and people drinking bottled water are stupid are just trying to sound smart. If you don’t want to spend your money on bottled water then don’t. But don’t tell me what to drink or not to drink.

  13. The health benefits of pet ownership are well documented by the NIH, CDC, and AVMA. Pet ownership can decrease blood pressure, triglyceride levels, and feelings of loneliness. I go to the park and/or walk outdoors at least a mile a day with my dog, providing me with additional health benefits.

    Yes, some people go overboard and “waste” money on extravagances for their pets, but a maintaining a healthy lifestyle every day (and pets help people do this) will save a lot of money in medical bills later on. If Fido or Fluffy needs bottled water to stay healthy, it’s well worth the few dollars a week in extra cost. What’s the alternative, euthanasia?

    Comparing pet ownership to “people dying in Africa” is like comparing apples to oranges. Pet owners can do their part to prevent poverty; the two are not mutually exclusive.

  14. If you live on the pacific north west you can drink from your tap ^^ we have the best water supply in the country. Taste just like bottled water vs like New York where you can taste the crap in the tap. But regardless i still buy bottled water just because it saves me some time and its more convenient. And brands like aquafina do taste even more pure. And seriously people who detest bottled water need to open their mind more. It taste good (and your regularly drink different kinds of water you can differentiate water, convenient and pure) who cares even if they are ripping us off, people must have their reasons for buying. I have mine and dont care to spend some extra money.

  15. If a pet requires bottled water and a pet owner wants to buy it for them it is THEIR business. Frankly I am sick and tired of all the AFRICA hype. I am sorry for their plight and have given to charity. But Charity begins at home. The good old USA for me.

  16. Ben’s suggestion of purifying your own water is possibly the best one here. Bottled water is expensive, creates unnecessary waste, and is potentially not as good for you as the companies make it out to be. Most of the water in those bottles is really just tap water with a nice label, and a lot of the bottles themselves leach chemicals into the water. Even the plastic water bottles many eco-conscious people (myself included) carry around and re-fill may not be all that great. I recently bought a stainless steel water bottle, which, combined with a filtering system in my kitchen, is the safest, cheapest, and least wasteful way of having clean water wherever I am.