S.) buy bottled water "because we believe it is healthier." Those beliefs are based on the fact that "Many consumers are willing to swallow the sales hype" but in reality "there is little evidence that bottled waters are substantially healthier to drink than ordinary tap water."
If one is truly thinking "green" about food and drink, there are more things to consider with regards to drinking water than the decision between tap water and bottled water. For example, in the UK, by the time Fiji water arrives on supermarket shelves it has traveled 10,000 miles. How much fossil fuel was used in the transporting of that water? What was the impact on climate change? And Naya Spring water travels 3,000 miles to arrive in the UK. How much greenhouse gas was released into the atmosphere so that Englanders could drink supposedly pure spring water from Canada?
On the Web site Dream Beverages, where a number of bottled water companies have their product displayed, there is a photo of a very young girl drinking from a liter-sized plastic bottle of Naya Spring Water. Under the photo the copy reads, "Naya water originates in the wilderness." People who live in crowded, noisy, polluted and crime-ridden big cities are likely going to be impressed by something as vital as water - in particular when it is coming from the wilderness. The slick marketing continues, explaining that Naya comes from "...the foot of the Canadian mountains, under layers and layers of natural filters of silt, sand and rock which protect the spring water from harmful bacteria and pollutants." So, if a consumer believes that there can't possibly be any pollutants in Naya water because after all, deep underground in the Canadian wilderness things must be fresh and pure, another customer has been hyped.]
The Ecologist narrative continues with a discussion of "the plastic problem." Some sources say there is not any evidence of the leaching of chemicals into the water from the plastic, but the Ecologist disagrees. There may be some leaching during storage, the article asserts, but there is especially a risk of leaching when the plastic bottle has been refilled. And don't be fooled by the little arrows that assure consumers the plastic bottles are recycled; "...in reality we do not recycle plastic in the developed world," the article states.
Even if plastic bottles were recycled, "most plastics can only be usefully recycled once, after which time they are not good for anything other than landfill or incineration - both of which are environmental disasters," the Ecologist continues. The next subject the article touches on is one of the ramifications of the "bottled water culture." And that is the "insatiable marketplace" that consumers' thirst for bottled water has created. Companies like Coca Cola and Nestle, the article explains, have identified water "as the new oil" and those corporations are "buying up water supplies throughout the world." What this means is that local people - who often are found "in very poor parts of the world" - may lose access to "vital water supplies just so we can feed our frankly stupid addiction to bottled water."
Finally the article runs down the list of why tap water is a good alternative to bottled water. One, it is "extremely cheap." Number two, since the regulations for tap water are far more strict than for bottled water, it is "highly likely" that the tap water from one's faucet at home is cleaner and safer than the water from a plastic bottle purchased at the supermarket. Thirdly, tap water is plentiful, the article explains. Finally, the writer of this piece states that "...there is no such thing as ethical, environmentally friendly bottled water," no matter the marketing hype to the contrary. If the world's citizens continue to obsess over that next bottle of water, the planet may run out of "habitable land, natural resources, and water - sooner than you think."
The article in BMC Infectious Diseases (Daeschlein, et al., 2007) is very technical and at times esoteric to the layperson. But there are portions of the narrative that can be clearly understood and reported. To wit, the article asserts in the beginning "Worldwide, nosocomical waterborne pathogens play an important and underestimated role in infection." The authors use "nosocomical" (an infection that was acquired in a healthcare setting, typically a hospital) because they are suggesting that in some countries tap water used in hospitals may not be filtered properly. And it's not just the problem of consuming tap water through the mouth when there are pathogens. it's transmission of water-related bacteria from "taking a shower, body washing, wound rinsing, washed hands, and the occurrence of water splashing in the hospital ward."
The fact that water taps are the source for some infections has been verified through the use of "epidemiological and molecular methods," the authors explain. And so the thrust of this article is the value of filters. They recommend "point-of-use" filters (POU) with tubular ceramic filter surfaces (hollow fibre surfaces). This filter system for tap water, the authors suggest, is better than "conventional single-use filters with flat fabric filter."
The article goes into specific, painstakingly intricate detail about the laboratory science that goes into an empirical research project like this one; in the end, the research shows that the best filters for tap water systems are reusable tap water filters called "Germlyser.sup[R].sup" which are good for up to 8 weeks before needing replacing.
On the subject of safe tap water systems, an article in Space Daily explores the possibility that the use of Ultra Violet (UV) light could possibly help prevent the spread of infection through drinking water. Duke University's Pratt School of Engineering has conducted research into the use of fluorescent microspheres, which become "bleached with exposure to UV light." The engineering students use these microspheres to mimic what the pathogenic microbes do when they flow through water that is routed through a UV reactor. This is the way science in validated in this experiment.
By taking careful microscopic measurements of the actual bleaching process of those microspheres, the research team can then come up with "precise measures of the full distribution of UV doses that a pathogen may experience." In other words, how effective will the UV light be in terms of having the capacity to kill those potential disease-causing bacteria or parasites before those parasites can get into the drinking water used by humans?
This article was written in 2005, but there was hope, according to Karl Linden, writing in Environmental Science and Technology (and quoted in Space Daily) "The use of UV will certainly lower the public's risk of microbial pollution." He goes on to say that by using UV light to kill harmful pathogens and bacteria is basically "a second barrier of defense." The first is of course fluoride and chlorine and other chemicals that are put into public water reservoirs. Linden reminds readers that even though chorine is the "primary method for disinfecting drinking water," chlorine can produce chemical byproducts "that have been linked to cancer." And moreover, chlorine does not kill all known infectious microbes; the protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium (called "Crypto") is a common parasite linked to waterborne disease in the United States.
Linden asserts that UV is "very effective in killing Crypto"; this discovery by Linden and his associates revealed as well that while chlorine is known to attack the cell membrane of the parasite, UV attacks organisms "...by breaking down their genetic material."
Meanwhile, Michael Shermer writes in the journal Skeptic about the hype surrounding the marketing of bottled water, notably by Coca Cola (Dasani) and Pepsi (Aquafina). He mentions a taste test that was given on Good Morning America in May of 2001. This was done with blindfolded participants live on national TV, and interestingly it turned out that viewers' preferences ran against the high-priced bottled water.
To wit, 12% of taste testers with blindfolds on preferred Evian; nineteen percent preferred O-2 water; 24% went for Poland Spring water; and 45% said their favorite was New York City tap water. How scientific was that taste test? Does it matter? In closing, the evidence from this research shows clearly that tap water is preferable and cheaper, and just as safe or safer than bottled water - provided there are adequate filtering technologies associated with the tap water system.