“There is enough water for human need, but not enough for human greed.” – Mohandas Gandhi
I may be a little late for World Water Week, but since that week has come and gone, and I’m still drinking water, I wanted to talk about a film I just saw called Tapped and what it has to say about the bottled water industry. Though bottled water hit its stride a couple of decades ago by touting itself as a healthy and convenient alternative to soda, recently it has been causing quite a stir among drought-ridden communities, health organizations, and environmental activists. Starting with the daunting line, “By the year 2030, two thirds of the world will be lacking access to clean drinking water,” filmmakers Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey take up the mantle in the fight against big business over the planet’s most valuable resource.
No, contrary to popular belief, the title of the planet’s most valuable resource does not go to black gold. In fact, bottled water costs three times as much as gasoline and 1400 times as much as tap water. But is it really worth it? That is just one of the questions raised in Tapped.
The film opens in Maine where a small town has begun a fight, as many towns across America have, with a large corporation. Due to the Absolute Dominion Law, which states that the guy with the biggest pump wins, the Nestle Corporation, which sells $3.5 billion of bottled water a year, has been water mining from the town of Fryeberg, basically pumping their drinking water out from under them and selling it back to them as Poland Springs. Of course, this is no isolated instance. In North Carolina, even in the height of one of the worst droughts in history, the Pepsi Cola Company continued to extract 400,000 gallons of the city’s water a day in order to sell them Aquafina.
As these corporations like Pepsi and Coca-Cola began to see their soda sales beginning to dwindle a few years back, they decided to offer the healthy alternative of fresh, pure water. While their marketing would have you believe that it is much better for you than what you can get from your own sink, it was only recently revealed that Aquafina and Dasani are pretty much just filtered tap water sold to you in a convenient, portable container.
So is bottled water really better for you? Not likely. Whereas any municipal water source is subject to a number of regulations and hundreds of test a month to assure that the public has safe drinking water, the bottled water industry has no such regulations. And with only one person at the FDA devoting half of her time to assuring the quality and safety of bottled water, it’s not bloody likely any will be put in place anytime soon. Sure, the companies are going to do their best to give you a product clean enough that you’ll continue to buy it, but according to the independent studies shown in the film, there’s a lot of stuff in that water that you won’t find coming out of your tap. And it ain’t pretty. In addition to the toluene (a constituent in gasoline and paint thinner), styrene (a cancer causing agent), and three types of phthalates (which are known to cause birth defects and reproductive problems), a number of other chemicals were found in the tested water bottles that surely wouldn’t be listed among the ingredients of a truly pure beverage.
In addition to what’s in the water itself, the film also looks at the actual bottles and the plight they have on public and personal health, as well as the environment. The manufacturing of plastic water bottles accounts for 714 million gallons (17 million barrels) of oil a year. That is enough to fuel 100,000 cars. A great amount of this is produced at Flint Hills Resources of Corpus Christi. To watch the movie, it would seem that most of the population of Corpus Christi survives by breathing through oxygen tubes. Due to the manufacturing of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) plastic and the byproduct of benzene filtering into the air and ground water, the cancer rate of Corpus Christi is extremely high and birth defects are 84% higher than the Texas state average. This toxic occurrence is made necessary in the name of convenience, so that 31 billion bottles of water can be produced in America every year. And while these bottles are made to be recyclable, to most Americans that is interpreted to mean disposable as only 20% of them end up being recycled, the rest finding their way into our landfills and oceans.
If you can’t afford an hour and fifteen minutes to watch the film, please take five and a half minutes to watch the trailer for Tapped to get a glimpse of it for yourself.
Considering that 75% of the Earth’s surface is covered in water, but only 1% is drinkable, what can be done to respect and protect this finite and invaluable resource?
2. Invest in a reusable water bottle. Sigg offers many of them in all sorts of styles, and of course you can always get yourself a Modern Hippie Mag Sigg bottle. If that’s too expensive, you can’t go wrong with a Klean Kanteen.
4. Check out the Tapped website for more great tips.
Steve McAllister is an acclaimed author, filmmaker, actor, and musician. In addition to contributing to Modern Hippie Mag, he also writes InkenSoul, a blog focused on literature and information that promotes commerce, charity, creativity, spirituality, and environmental sustainability. Purchase his most recent novel, The McAllister Code as an e-book at www.themcallistercode.com. Find Steve on Twitter, @InkenSoul. Read his reviews and articles here.