Wednesday, October 17th, 2018

Sustainability & ME: Are you paying too much for free water?

Posted on April 14, 2015 in Perspectives
By USM Free Press

Bottled water is one of the biggest marketing gimmicks to date and it works.  Last year alone Americans wasted over 11 billion dollars buying bottled water.  Not only is the industry selling you something that should be free but they are destroying the environment in the process.  The entire life cycle of bottled water is detrimental to the environment.  It includes robbing local communities and ecosystems of their water source; using millions of gallons worth of fossil fuel to transport, package and distribute the water; then polluting the oceans and the environment further when the bottles are irresponsibly thrown away.

One of the biggest reasons we drink bottled water is because we have been told that our tap water is not clean and we should drink bottled water for our own health and safety, when in fact the ones telling us that our tap water isn’t safe are the water bottle companies themselves.   But where is the bottled water actually coming from?  Most of the water is the same stuff you get from your tap.  It may be run through a filter or “purified” but it’s essentially the exact same water.   The industry is not required to disclose the source of the water and there are virtually no federal regulations, quality standards, or tests.  For instance, the original Poland Spring was pumped dry in the late 1960s. Where does Poland Spring get its water from now? Only about one third to one half of the water is from springs in Maine and the rest is from undisclosed sources (tap water).  Poland Spring water is coming out of the ground in Maine.  Our tap water is coming out of Sebago Lake which is fed by natural springs exactly like the ones Poland Spring uses.

Now that’s talk about the price tag.  Most of you reading this article are college students riddled with debt (myself included). We are paying taxes and tuition to the government with the assumption that they will provide adequate public services like clean drinking water.  And they do.  Municipal water sources are highly regulated and controlled.  Especially here in the Portland area where the water comes from Sebago Lake, receives minimal treatments, and is very clean and safe to drink (and it tastes good!). In the United States tap water costs less than one penny per gallon.  While the average price of single serve water bottles runs about $7.50 per gallon. That means bottled water costs about 2000 times more than tap water. That’s like paying $10,000 for a hamburger or $6,000 for a gallon of gasoline.  Bottled water is more expensive than gasoline and it is priced like a luxury good but it’s just water.  Tap water is essentially free yet the bottled water industry continues to grow every year.  In fact, assuming we drink eight glasses of water per day, it costs less than 50 cents a year to drink tap water.  That amount of bottled water would cost upwards of $1,400.

Many colleges have completely banned the sale of bottled water on their campuses.  Here at USM we have started a Take Back The Tap campaign.  The goal of this campaign is to decrease the sale and use of bottled water at USM; get more filtered water refill stations available around campus; and make refillable water bottles available to students, faculty, and staff.  If you are interested in learning more or supporting the cause then check out our Facebook page: Take Back The Tap USM.

Louis is a third year International Business student at USM; he loves the great outdoors and is highly interested in sustainability.

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