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
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.