To quote the respected Science Alert, “For the vast majority of people, a glass from the tap and a glass from the bottle are virtually identical as far as their health and nutritional quality are concerned. In some cases, publicly-sourced tap water may actually be safer since it is usually tested more frequently”.
In fact, a recent report found that almost half of all bottled water is actually derived from the tap. In 2007, Pepsi (Aquafina) and Nestle (Pure Life) among others had to change their labels to more accurately reflect this.
Bottled water costs on average 300 times more than tap water. It’s not a new idea, the first documented case of bottled water being sold was in Boston USA in the 1760’s, when a company called Jackson's Spa bottled and sold mineral water for "therapeutic" uses. Companies in Saratoga Springs and Albany also appear to have packaged and sold water. At the time public water was not safe to drink, but these days its every bit as safe as the bottled water you are paying for. The bottled water industry is driven by health concerns regarding drinking water.
Making bottled water is also an extensive, resource-heavy process. Like other sources of plastic, the material in bottled water is produced from the by-products of crude oil. Unlike other plastic materials that get reused over their lifetimes, plastic bottles are typically used once and then disposed of. A study in the journal Environmental Research Letters revealed that the plastic that went into the bottled water Americans consumed in 2007 came from the by-products of roughly 32-54 million barrels of oil. That’s just in America.
Add to this the cost of transporting vast quantities of bottled water around the country, if not across Europe, you can see that we are not just contributing to global warming we are being deliberately wasteful. You can fill your own bottles from the tap at home. You may raise the objection to this opinion if you like natural carbonated water drawn from a highly regulated ‘local’ spring. I personally like Pedras Salgadas.
To try and justify my environmentally unfriendly choice, I looked on their website, and I quote. ‘This water is rare: very few sparkling waters anywhere in the world are 100% natural like Pedras (a natural sparkling mineral water), which is what makes it so special and complete’.
That made me feel a bit better but it’s still just water, the same stuff that comes out of the tap. But the fact that its natural spring water sounds so much better. Before you go down that train of thought, bear in mind that approximately 80 percent of our tap water in the Algarve comes from natural underground deposits.
The only excuse is taste of spring water, maybe
There is a valid argument for taste if you are buying bottled water from a named and specific spring. That can be applied to Monchique water as well as brands such as Pedras, as well as imported brands, mainly from France and Italy. But before you buy, think of the distance they have travelled to reach your table let alone the cost to the environment. Have you seen the size of the lorries carrying water let alone the distance they have travelled? You might want to think about that before you order.
I have looked extensively at many creditable reports and research. I can’t find any that say there is any health benefit from spring waters, it’s just water. Taste, I must admit that some of the premium brands do have a unique taste.
Why not use your tap?
One of the saddest things to see people struggling home with five litre bottles of water. If you are so concerned about your tap water, and that’s completely unjustified, you can get your own filter, simple and well tested solutions like a Brita filter jar, or you can even get your plumber to add a filter to your system. Quite why you would bother is a mystery. The only exception is if you have your own bore hole or well, in which case regular testing and filtering is your responsibility. The water companies are rigorously testing your tap water to ensure its 100 percent safe.
Over US$ 300 billion profit selling us water
The bottling and selling of water could be thought of as one of the simplest yet most lucrative ideas in retail marketing. You’re not kidding, the bottled water industry was valued at US$ 185 billion in 2015 and is expected to reach US$ 334 billion by 2023. They are selling you a product you can get out of your tap virtually for free.
The bottled water industry has an increasing market of over $20 billion per year in the whole world. The rate at which it expands is around 10 percent a year in many countries.
A lot of the time, these companies are using local ‘tap water’. They then filter that water with standard filtration techniques before selling it at inflated prices, a process which now can be avoided by installing our own water filtration systems which use the same filtration techniques. No wonder they are making billions of profits.
It’s worth remembering, water comes from rain, it drains through the earth or rocks, then it’s either sold to you at a vast profit in a bottle or you can turn on your tap! It’s the same water either way.
Do yourself a favour, just fill an environmentally friendly container at home. At a restaurant you are perfectly free to ask for a glass of water.
Resident in Portugal for 50 years, publishing and writing about Portugal since 1977. Privileged to have seen, firsthand, Portugal progress from a dictatorship (1974) into a stable democracy.