Tapping into facts on water

photo illustration by Cody BahnSarah Adams/ Associate editor

The average amount spent a year on bottled water per person is over $250 but is it worth it? Campuses across the nation are banning bottled water and California recently affirmed water as a human right.
Purity is the issue with tap water, suggesting that bottled water is cleaner than from the tap. But the water sources of both are usually the same and the only difference between the two is the system of regulations they follow.
According to www.cctexas.com, municipalities are governed by strict regulations such as where potable water comes from and how often it is tested. Not only are these tests performed but they also have to be reported for public access. Water quality reports are available on the website.
According to Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 60 to 70 percent of all bottled water purchased is produced within state lines. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates only state-to-state commerce; therefore, if the production and distribution of bottled water is within state lines, testing does not fall under federal guidelines.
According to the 2009 documentary “Tapped,” by directors Stephanie Soechtig and Jason Lindsey, there is only one person in charge of making sure bottled water is up to par at the FDA, and her name is Lauren Robin, Review Chemist of Food and Safety. In the documentary she describes her duty.
“I spend some of my time on bottled water. But I have other responsibilities as well,” she said.
Besides the lack of testing in bottled water, there is also debate about its packaging.
The container used to bottle Bling H20 is made of frosted glass with a Swarovski crystal-encrusted logo, but the cost is significantly higher than the average bottle of water found at a convenience store. Most other bottles used to carry the water are plastic. This plastic is made from a biofuel called Para Xylene, or PET, and most of PET produced in the nation is used to produce plastic bottles.
The largest manufacturer of PET is Flint Hills Resources, located in Corpus Christi. The Flint Hills Resource webpage states:
“The plant, which was acquired in 1981… produces core aromatics such as benzene, toluene and xylenes and further processes these into derivatives such as Para xylene [PET].” According to the site, PET is made from the feedstock (a starting material that’s used to make biofuel) of toluene, styrene and benzene.
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information all three chemicals have been linked to adverse reproductive outcomes, diabetes, obesity, breast and prostate cancer and other diseases. According to “Tapped,” Corpus Christi has 80% higher rate of birth defects than the rest of Texas and the April 2010 issue of Men’s Health Magazine rated Corpus Christi the “fattest” U.S. city. Manufacturing of these plastic water bottles uses 17 million gallons of oil every year, enough to fuel 1,000,000 cars for a year.
Even if the problem of cancer-causing chemicals and huge amounts of oil wasted producing the bottles were removed from this equation, there would still be the problem of what to do with the empty bottles.
World recycling of plastic bottles is at 50 percent, but in the U.S. only 20 percent of bottles are being recycled while the rest go to landfills or are sometimes shipped to Asia. According to Captain Charles Moore, founder of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, there are extreme environmental hazards in the Pacific Ocean related to discarded bottles that are compromising other oceans.
“If you eliminate the scourge of bottled water, you’ll be eliminating one of the biggest problems facing our environment,” said Moore.
According to Beveragemarketing.com, in 2011, 29.2 gallons of bottled water per person were sold, making 187 bottles of water per person per year. For 20 ounce bottles, the average price per year per person is $261.13.
Joe Doss, president and CEO of International Bottled Water Association who represents Nestle Waters, Evian, Volvic and Fiji said, “We don’t consider tap water an enemy” while, Chief of Quaker Oats, Robert S. Morrison said, “The biggest enemy is tap water.”
Some officers of corporations are cautioned not to disparage tap water because it is usually the corporation’s source. Susan Wellington, president of Quaker’s U.S. beverage division said “When we’re done, tap water will be relegated to showers and washing dishes,” because their goal is to make any water used for drinking come from a bottle.

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