The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner rang true for me over this past week. It was all about the water. I attended the Zero Waste Business Conference in San Diego and once again heard the famous Captain Charles Moore speak about the “Great Pacific Garbage patch“, or what he now calls a “Sea of Simmering Synthetic Soup”.
I also viewed a screening of the movie Tapped at the La Paloma in Encinitas. The theater was packed and filled with interest. It was a bit of preaching to the choir, but even this choir had much to learn from the film. I myself had considered many of the problem issues with bottled water: the extraction of oil and the water waste just to produce the bottles; the plastic waste after one-time use; the unregulated contamination of the water; and the high cost of purchasing the bottled water. But one element I had not considered was the health and environmental costs that are paid by the people who live near the oil refineries that produce the plastic water bottles. I had also not completely understood that there are three main companies that are extracting the water from our communities, water that should belong to all. And they are selling it back to us at an exponential cost to us, and at a great profit to themselves.
Have you seen those labels with mountain streams and proclamations of purity? Most of the bottled water sold in the US does not come from mountain streams, and it is largely unregulated by the FDA. The tap water from your home or office has more quality assurance and testing than bottled water.
We have been sold on the convenience and purity of bottled water over tap water, and in the process we have created a dangerous situation. One which is run by three large companies: Pepsi, Coke, and Nestle. They are extracting and selling us back our water, our own water. Then, since in the U.S. we are only recycling 20% of all those disposable bottles, we are polluting our lands and waterways. According to Charles Moore, there are more bits of plastic in the ocean now than plankton.
About 70% of the earth’s surface is covered with water. Ninety-seven percent of the water on the earth is salt water. Salt water is filled with salt and other minerals, and humans cannot drink this water. Although the salt can be removed, it is a difficult and expensive process.
Less than 1% of all the water on earth is fresh water that we can actually use. We use this small amount of water for drinking, transportation, heating and cooling, industry, and many other purposes.
In our democracy we have a voice, and we need to use it. We need to vote with our dollars. We will not ever be able to clean up the plastic soup in the ocean until we stop buying those disposable bottles. Our water tables will continue to decline if we continue to allow big business to treat water as a commodity, rather than a resource. Buy a reusable drinking canteen, preferably one made of stainless steel, and drink your own tap water. It is safer and cheaper. Municipalities that supply our water do not have the advertising budgets of companies like Coke, Pepsi, and Nestle. They cannot compete. It is up to us to support and protect our local water infrastructure and safely “take back the tap”!