The Culture around Bottled Water

March 17, 2014

Written By: naomi odlin

Here at UNH, we are privileged enough to be able to turn on the faucet and have clean, safe, drinking water at our disposals. A virtually unlimited amount of water. Then why do we insist on buying case after case of Poland Springs water, or Fiji water. Because that’s what we were ‘brain-washed’ to do. In order to make a bunch of money on something as little, but important, as water, companies such as Nestle decided to bottle it up, slap a picture of a beautiful mountainside stream, and say that it’s cleaner than municipal water. And people ate it up. Why would you want to drink water from the stinky old lake that people are allowed to swim in when you could drink water from an uninhabited mountain far off in the distance. Want to know a secret? Most of the bottled water today actually comes from right from the tap out of that stinky old lake. Yup. You know everyone’s favorite Poland Springs, bottled right in our neighbor Maine? Well Nestle actually extracted so much water that the real Poland Springs is no longer the main source, but rather a bunch of other springs in the area, since its so depleted.* You’re probably thinking, yeah well the water from the drinking fountain in Huddleston tastes bad so it must be bad for you, right? Wrong. Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) who has much heavier regulations than the Food and Drug Association (FDA) who is in charge of bottled water. The FDA treats bottled water as food, and therefore doesn’t have to conduct certain chemical tests on it, or to maintain truly safe standards. The EPA also requires that municipal water sources are tests a bunch of times a month, while the FDA only tests bottled water sources a few times a year. The only reason Huddleston water tastes so bad is because that building hasn’t been renovated since like 1584. But buying a huge case of bottles everytime you go home for a weekend is so much more convenient than having to go refill a water bottle. Have you ever sat down and calculated out just how much you’re spending on those bottles? Well a friend of mine that’s also involved with Take Back the Tap (we’ll get into that later) did. And here’s what she came up with.

  • According to the EPA, tap water is about 2? per 1,000 gallons.
  • A 24-pack of generic bottled water from Walmart is about $9, and equals around 3.2 gallons.
  • On campus, a single bottle of Dasani water is about $1.79, at approximately 0.132 gallons.
  • So for a gallon of each of these different waters, it’ll be around $0.002 for tap, $2.80 for bulk, and $13.56 for individual bottles.

I’m not a math major (environmental geography actually), but I’m pretty sure tap water is way more cost effective. If you need further convincing, my friend did out the math (maybe she’s a math major!) how much it would cost you to drink the recommended 8 glasses of water a day for a whole month; 3? a month for tap, $42 for bulk water, and $203.40 for Dasani water on campus. That’s outrageous! We spend like a billion dollars to go to this awesome school, so why are we spending a bunch more money on water when it could cost us pennies. I bet if we each walked through the Dump parking lot once a month we could find the three pennies it would cost us to drink water. Don’t worry about sending any money this month mom, I found enough in a parking lot!

So I propose that we each reach into that jar of emergency money, grab a twenty, go to the bookstore and buy a $16 UNH Nalgene, then take the remaining $4 and buy yourself something nice from Kurt's. Cheesy fries anyone? You can also easily get a cheap reusable bottle from Walmart or Target or wherever.

If you want to talk more about this issue, because believe me there’s a lot more here, then why don’t you mark on your calendars March 25. There’s going to be a University Dialogue that day all about the water on campus. It’s going to be wicked cool.

* This short article touches a little on the whole Poland Springs/Nestle dispute, and links to another good article: http://money.msn.com/now/post.aspx?post=233b520f-fda0-4590-bb48-2a42a4b8...

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