Wednesday, March 5, 2008
With the current bottled-water craze, millions of Americans are paying more money per gallon for water than for gasoline, even though most cities charge less than 1 cent per gallon for municipal water. If you incorporate a few daily changes, and figure out how to filter your own tap water, you can get all the benefits of water without the high cost—and save the environment from all that additional plastic.
Do It Yourself
More than 90 percent of municipal water supplies in the U.S. are safe for drinking without the need for extra filtration. Federal safety testing requirements for municipal water supplies are more thorough than water bottling facilities' testing. Cities generally test for microbes in their public water supply several times each day, whereas water bottling plants usually only test their water on a weekly basis. And when 25 percent to 40 percent of bottled water on the market is bottled tap water anyway, the extra cost isn't worth it.
Jackson water occasionally contains a higher than acceptable level of trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, byproducts formed when water is cleaned with chlorine. You can filter out these contaminants fairly easily with a typical carbon filter such as Brita or Pur.
One chemical that is more difficult to remove is fluoride. Water in Jackson is fluoridated, as is much of the bottled water on the market. Fluoridation is controversial and can cause health problems, especially in pregnant women, young children and the elderly. If you're at risk, look to buy reverse osmosis water in large jugs rather than in individual bottles. And take further action by contacting your legislators to express your concern about our fluoridated public water supply.
If you're concerned about the current safety of tap water, call your local public works office (contact info for Jackson is on the right) and find out what pollutants, if any, are present in your tap water. Then, look for a water filtration pitcher or faucet system that targets those specific contaminants.
Drink your filtered water from the same glass or mug all day. Bring a mug to work, or look for lightweight, unlined stainless steel water bottles, which are the safest reusable bottles on the market today. Some companies even offer stainless steel sippy cups for children.
Health and Safety
Many experts see an added health risk in drinking bottled water because aluminum and plastic bottles leach chemicals. such as phthalates from the plastic. This contamination is worse in single-use plastic bottles that are reused multiple times. Even the popular Nalgene bottles can leach chemicals and cause health problems, especially in children and people with compromised immune systems.
If you're traveling in a third-world country, by all means opt for bottled water to avoid serious water-borne diseases. And certain people, such as pregnant women and young children, are more vulnerable to contaminants in their drinking water.
In addition to the high cost and health risks associated with bottled water, the act of bottling water is not environmentally sustainable. It takes two to five gallons of water to produce a plastic bottle that holds one gallon of water, and because only 10 to 15 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled in the U.S., it's also causing a problem in our landfills. Why pay extra to ship water over long distances in unhealthy, unsustainable plastic bottles when the city can deliver it safely, cheaper and more efficiently directly to your kitchen sink?
A major reason people are willing to pay for bottled water is the convenience. Grab a bottle and throw it in your bag or in your car as you're running out the door. Buy a bottle from a vending machine. But it doesn't take that much extra time to fill up a reusable water bottle to bring along wherever you go. And with all of the interesting water bottles on the market today, you can even choose one that reflects your personality.
Finally, don't beat yourself up for buying an occasional bottle of water. Even Green Girl sometimes forgets to bring her own bottle. But with a little planning, you can save money, improve your health and help the planet all at the same time.
Jackson Department of Public Works
200 S President St., # 405
Buffalo Peak Outfitters
1300 E. Northside Dr.
Indian Cycle Fitness & Outdoors
677 S. Pear Orchard Rd., Ridgeland
Rainbow Natural Grocery Co-Op
2807 Old Canton Rd.