Bottled water is a convenience most Americans are increasingly enjoying, with about 10 billion gallons being produced in the United States alone. Yet few realize most bottled water comes from some of the most drought-ridden places in the country and causes substantial harm to the environment. Even fewer realize where their water actually comes from and the harm it causes.
A majority of bottled water comes from California, which is going through the third driest year on record. While around 80 percent of the state’s water supply goes to agriculture, a vast amount of water still goes toward the bottled water industry.
Most bottled water companies are based out of California, which is why so much bottled water comes from the state. Why are so many of these companies in California? Well, California happens to be the only western state that doesn’t have groundwater regulation or management of groundwater use. This means if a California based water company drills down and finds water, it’s all theirs.
Details surrounding where and how companies get water for their bottled water is unclear at best, but bottled water usually falls into two categories: spring water, which makes up about 55 percent of bottled water and municipal water supply (essentially treated tap water), which makes up about 45 percent.
However, companies aren’t required to tell where their water comes from and usually don’t talk about it openly. Some even go to great lengths to guarantee their company maintains a good image.
According to author Peter Gleick’s book, Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, some bottled water comes from probably the last places on Earth people would think about. For example, Gleick found that Everest water comes from Texas, Glacier Mountain comes from Ohio, and only a third of Poland Springs water actual comes from Poland Spring, located in Maine.
Not only is this billion dollar industry hiding the sources of their water, but is damaging the environment with the production of bottled water.
Plastic bottles used to package water take more than 1000 years to biodegrade and produce toxic fumes if incinerated. Around 80 percent of single-use water bottles used in the country simply end up as liter. This is why landfills contain more than two million tons of discarded water bottles.
It also takes more than 1.5 million barrels of oil to meet the demand of the country’s water bottle manufacturing. Production of water bottle manufacturing also takes an estimated three liters of water to package just one liter of bottled water.
Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy alternatives to using bottled water.
Businesses can use water coolers and water fountains as a replacement for bottled water. For home use, people can install water filters on their faucets or use tabletop filtered pitchers. If you have to buy bottled water, make sure it’s a large volume container like a three or five gallon jug. For portable water, use reusable bottles instead of one-use bottles.
The bottled water industry has proven to be disingenuous and needlessly harmful to the environment with the creation of their products. Bottled water is a luxury, not a need. Yet in 2012, the industry made $12 billion in the United States. If we work together, we can stop the waste and harm this industry causes and always know exactly where the water you just drank came from.