Water is the drink of choice to keep a healthy lifestyle. No doubt about it. However, there are some aspects to consider at the moment of taking a sip.
One may have several reasons for choosing bottled to tap water, being convenience and safety the quickest that come to mind. Still, a handful of people would acknowledge that media campaigns might have influenced their perception on a sociocultural level as well as risk perception. Give it a thought: generally speaking, people have the impression that bottled water is healthier, more convenient, and tastier, although it is hard to identify the features that advocate those judgements.
It is true that tapped water quality varies country to country and, when in doubt the safest choice is consuming the industrial version. Nonetheless, the environmental effects of bottled water should be deemed a short-term choice. Beyond the impact of the plastic packaging -which in most cases could be recycled- the cost of production enters profoundly in the evaluation.
There is a large energy utilization in capturing and conveying water from the source to the treatment plant. Besides, the bottles need to be produced, stored, and transported to the water factory. Then, cleaned and conditioned before being filled, sealed, labelled, and lastly stored ready to be sold to retailers or distributors (so again, they will be transported to a warehouse or shop, before being even touched by consumers.) All this chain increases, evidently, waste and pollution.
Additionally, a study conducted by the International Bottled Water Association in 2013 concluded that bottled water facilities utilized 1.39 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bottled water (without considering the usage to produce the packaging!) In other words, water yield production is 72%. Crazy, right?
Sadly, there is still a conundrum around improper sorting of plastic and ineffective recycling of containers. The belief lays in the fact that they can be recyclable, and their environmental effects are mitigated via that practice. Still, an erroneous disposal could lead to several hundred years to biodegrade. On top of that, recycling demands energy consumption, and the final quality of the plastic gets diminished cycle after cycle.
As a conclusion, we could agree that a good practice is using reusable bottles and lecture ourselves on the water quality in our regions. Besides, switching to tap water consumption carries a cost advantage: according to the European Commission, the cost of litre equals to 0.002 euro whilst a bottle at the supermarket oscillates 1-2eur.
In Europe, the legislation is constantly updated in terms of quality standards and hygiene requirements for materials in contact with drinking water, such as pipes or taps, to avoid contamination. Countries must improve access to clean water for everyone in the region, especially for vulnerable groups with no or only limited access.
Water is a scarce natural source. We should take responsibility for its usage in a broad aspect and support communities to be granted the right of its availability. There are still many people deprived of potable water, while others are willing to pay beyond average market prices for brands that make a business out of the need of nourishment.
My inspiration to write these lines:
European Commission (2018). Drinking water in the EU: better quality and access. News European Parliament, updated on 2020/02/19
Poppenheimer L. (2015) Bottled Water – Cost and Sustainability. Green Groundswell 2015/01/26
BioMed Central (2009) People Think Bottled Water Is Healthy ... Sort Of. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 8 July 2009.