Bottled water is a scam. It’s as stupid as selling expensive bottled air, but after a few decades of commercialization, an absurd instinct sometimes pushes us to grab a good bottle of Volvic when our mouth becomes dry and our mind stunned by the heat . It’s not water my friend, it’s water!
Take my country, Canada. Here, bottled water prevents aquifers located near the Great Lakes, where it is pumped for the modest sum of $ 3.71 per million liters by companies who sell it then making monstrous profits. There is still talk of a country where Native peoples (Amerindians) are forced by decrees to boil all the water they consume, and who usually end up drinking their own drinking water after buying it under form of bottles delivered by trucks. Unsurprisingly, this water belongs to Nestlé and other large companies.
Politicians and activists are calling for a price increase for companies to pump water from municipal sources, but some experts say this is not enough. According to the most vehement, we should simply prohibit anyone from pumping water for profit, for both social and scientific reasons. And Nestlé should lose the license that allows it so far to continue this practice.
“If water became a common good, it would not mean that Nestlé or Coca-Cola could not pump it for soda; it should be possible to get a license to use water to make certain products, but not to make it a product in itself, “says Stephen Scharper, a professor of sustainable development at the University of Toronto.
“In the long run, that would be tantamount to totally abolishing bottled water. “
A 2016 report by Harden Environmental Services, a company specializing in groundwater analysis, indicated that “Nestlé’s water withdrawals depressurize” the aquifer from which the water is pumped. may result in contamination of water that may come into contact with nearby wells or septic tanks.
Above all, we could one day find ourselves facing a shortage of water. Data released by NASA last year shows that “about a third of the Earth’s largest groundwater reservoirs are rapidly being depleted by human consumption. If we add global warming, a source of droughts that are ever more frequent and ever more intense all over the world, this water could prove invaluable in the near future.
At this point in the discussion, it must also be kept in mind that bottled water is no better than tap water, at least in countries where the public distribution of drinking water is working properly; historically, it is even worse. In 1999, the NGO Natural Resources Defense Council released a report stating that 25% of bottled water was exactly the same as tap water. In 2006, a test conducted by the city of Cleveland revealed that bottled water from the Fiji brand contained arsenic. In 2008, the Environmental Working Group showed that most brands of bottled water were no different from tap water, and sometimes exceeded the legal thresholds for contaminants.
“No need for private sector intermediaries”
Municipalities are required by law to publish annual reports on water quality, but companies that sell water are only monitored by consumer associations and not by government agencies. Many of them publish reports on the quality of their water, but some point out that these companies are not subject to the same standards as municipalities and that the industry is self-regulating.
Proponents of the ban on bottled water, one could argue that easily transportable and storable water sources can be vital in the event of a disaster or lasting problem. Amerindians in Canada, for example, have to settle for bottled water until their drinking water problems are resolved. But according to Scharper, there is no reason why the government can not play this role.
“Even if a major event occurs and municipal services can no longer provide water, this does not mean that businesses must go into the breach to make a profit,” he says. The government has a duty to provide citizens with the basic necessities of life. The state can supply water from municipal sources. No need for private sector intermediaries. “
Historically, we have had to make drastic decisions. One example is asbestos, which was used extensively in the construction industry before being banned in many countries when it was found to be very dangerous to health. This year, the city of Paris has banned the circulation of all vehicles produced before 1997 on weekdays, in order to fight against pollution.
Some cities have already started to ban bottled water. In 2009, the city of Bundanoon, Australia, totally banned water bottles. In 2014, San Francisco voted to ban bottled water in public places. In other words, it is possible; it is enough to have the political will and to be motivated.
Then pity: stop drinking bottled water.
Bins Sea Beach Garbage Garbage
Following the publication of this article (originally published on the American version of Motherboard), the Chambre Syndicale des Eaux Minérales demanded a right of reply concerning the specificity of the French case. We reproduce here, at his request, this corrigendum:
In France natural mineral water meets a specific regulation inscribed in the Code of Public Health. The respect of these specificities which are the purity, the naturalness, the quality and the constant composition have a cost for the minerals. Significant investments are being made to preserve the natural sites from which the sources come. It is at the level of the impluvium, water infiltration zone, that the ore producers conduct source protection policies in collaboration with local stakeholders to prevent any risk of contamination of natural mineral water. The surface of an impluvium can cover several thousand hectares.
In addition, natural mineral water is not a free resource: a tax is paid by bottlers to municipalities where the sources are located. The price of natural mineral water is therefore a reflection of all these factors.
The amount of bottled water does not exceed what nature renews day after day. Minerals are aware of the need to conserve water resources. Their activity around sources makes it possible to sustain these resources, protecting them from pollution and preserving their natural ecosystem.
The Public Health Code defines the specificities of natural mineral water: it is of underground origin. It comes from a single source preserved from all human pollution and undergoes no disinfection treatment. Tap water and natural mineral waters are therefore totally different and meet different regulations.
In addition, French mineral waters are subject to regulations that also define the legal thresholds for contaminants. However, French mineral waters do not exceed the legal thresholds of contaminants, otherwise they could not be marketed.