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About A Week: The Madness And Badness Of Bottled Water

Peter Hinchliffe highlights the planet-damaging effrects of the bottled water industry.

Britain imports bottled water from Japan, New Zealand, Australia, Fiji, Hawaii, Canada and other parts of the world.

Yet in the wettest parts of the country rain falls on 200 days a year. Rivers overflow. Reservoirs are usually full.

This week Phil Woolas, the UK’s environment minister, said that drinking bottled water is “almost morally indefensible’’.

Bottled mineral water is a $4 million a year business in the UK. Yet there is an excellent supply of drinkable tap water throughout the land.

This huge spending on bottled water sits uneasily with statistics supplied by the United Nations which reveal that 2,600 million people in the world are without proper sanitation.

The UN says that inadequate water supplies result in the deaths of 1,500,000 children every year.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “An estimated 42,000 people die every week from diseases related to low water quality and an absence of adequate sanitation. This situation is unacceptable.”

The International Year of Sanitation, 2008, is a theme year set by the UN General Assembly in December 2006 to help put this global crisis at the forefront of the international agenda.

Water is a heavy commodity. Transporting it around the world uses up inordinate amounts of energy, adding considerably to global warming.

It is poured into plastic bottles – the plastic made from oil which was probably extracted from a Middle Eastern desert location. When empty, the majority of these plastic bottles end up in landfill sites. Some of them litter streets, country lanes and beaches.

The consumption of bottled water has increased at a rapid rate in recent years. For some it has become a snobbish consumer item.

Claridge’s, the famous London hotel, offers bottled water from around the world, some of it priced at nearly £50 per litre.

As with wine, certain varieties of water are recommended by the retailer to be drunk with certain kinds of food. One is said to have a sweet taste and be the perfect to accompany sushi. Another goes with salads.

Claridge’s water list includes:

* Glaciana – glacier water from Osa, Norway, £8.50 (50cl)

Glaciana is glacier spring water from the small village of Osa, at the inland end of the Hardanger Fjord in western Norway. It is remarkably pure with exceptionally low mineral content, perhaps the lowest found in any bottled water in the world.

* Finé – artesian water from Shuzenji, Japan, £15 (72cl)

Finé is artesian water from Japan. Its bottle is modelled on a traditional sake one and it is a perfect companion to sushi, sashimi and caviar. Finé has low mineral content and a slightly sweet taste due to its pH balance and an amount of silica.

* Fiji – artesian water from Yaqara Valley, Fiji, £6.50 (1 litre)

The remoteness of the island ensures that this exquisite still artesian mineral water is uncontaminated by artificial substances. It has a low mineral content, is high in silica, slightly sweet with an overall smooth sensation on the palate.

* Waiwera – spring water from Waiwera Resort, New Zealand, £9 (1 litre)

Waiwera Mineral Water was first bottled and sold in the 1870's, when people travelled many miles to take the waters at Waiwera Thermal Resort in New Zealand.

* Cloud Juice – rainwater from King Island, Australia, £9 (75cl)

Cloud Juice is rainwater, bottled at one of the most remote places in the world, King Island, Tasmania. With the Cape Grim Weather station nearby, King Island enjoys the cleanest air in the world and the cleanest rainwater.

* Just Born Spring Drops – spring water from Nilgris Mountains, India, £24 (1 litre)

Bottled at source to maintain its purity and freshness, Just Born Spring Drops is from the Nilgris Mountains in India. It is naturally filtered through the mountain layers and is suitable for all ages, particularly people with sensitive digestions, new born babies, children, pregnant ladies and the elderly.

A spokesman for one of the firms supplying Britain’s tap water pointed out in a suitably dry tone that a litre of their very palatable liquid costs less than a tenth of a penny.

On BBC TV’s prestigious Panorama programme this week it was stated that Britons were now drinking 200 times as much bottled water as was consumed in the 1970s.

In a blind tasting organised for the programme tap water was judged to be just as acceptable as bottled water.
“So, now should we stand back and admire the brilliant machinations of capitalism and its ability to create wealth and jobs from nowhere or shout out that the emperor has no clothes?’’ demanded the programme’s presenter.

Producing and delivering a litre of bottled water emits hundreds of times as much greenhouse gas as a litre of tap water, it was said on the Panorama programme.

Phil Woolas, the Environment Minister, said it was daft that six million litres of bottled water were drunk every day in Britain when safe tap water was universally and cheaply available.

The Minister is backing a campaign to persuade British people to drink tap water rather than bottled water.

Last year I wrote a story for OhmyNews titled A Journey To Shame Car Drivers in which I mentioned the hard life of Sarah, a lady who lives in the Sudan.

She walks for 7 hours and 30 minutes in heat of 45 degrees Celsius (113 degrees Fahrenheit) through the Nuba Mountains to fetch the daily amount of water she needs for her family.

The next time you’re thirsty think of Sarah, draw a glass of water from the tap, and count yourself lucky.

If you need to carry water around with you re-use the same plastic bottle, refilling it again and again from the tap.

Could this be the week when bottled water becomes a symbol of selfishness and stupidity?

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