Ruth Page

 SHELBURNE, VT (2007-06-01)

(HOST) Many of us carry bottled water wherever we go. Commentator Ruth Page suggests that drinking ordinary tap water can be healthier -- and better for the environment.

(PAGE) The average American drinks twenty-four gallons of bottled water every year, ten times more than we drank in 1980. That doesn't include what we drink at home and in restaurants.

Good; drinking plenty of water is healthy. But buying it in plastic bottles can be unhealthy for our planet. The water that comes from our home spigots is just as safe and just as good. Those plastic bottles have to be manufactured, normally in a facility that dumps aerosols and chemicals such as CO2 and other pollutants into the air we breathe.

Transporting the bottles about the country burns a scarce commodity - imported gasoline. Then millions of empty bottles are put into the trash, either right off, or after the purchaser has refilled them for additional use, to be dumped later on. It's possible to take them to a recycle center, but few Americans make that effort. In the trash, they are hauled to a landfill where more power is used to bury them. Ultimately they're broken into dozens of permanent plastic scraps.

It's been proven that some of the bottles may leach harmful products into the water they contain, especially if you keep re-using the same bottles, so you may be drinking pollutants, depending on which variety of bottle you have; most plastic water bottles don't tell you. The future may be better; progress is being made on manufacturing plastic bottles that will eventually biodegrade, but it may be some years before any of them are on the market. The solution is to carry a glass bottle of water containing a couple of ice cubes from your own kitchen. The bottle can be washed easily and refilled (I've been using a glass peanut butter jar with a tight lid for years), so it saves power and never needs replacement unless you break it.

The way Americans waste water is almost frightening. There isn't any new water; the same ancient water produced in Earth's development is constantly being recycled. Because much of it accumulates salt over the years, the supply of clean, fresh drinking water steadily diminishes.

Non-human creatures have evolved ways of conserving water not available to us. A camel can lose a fourth of its body weight in water without suffering. If you or I lost even a tenth of our weight in water, we'd be both deaf and delirious.

We're stuck with recycling as much of our freshwater as we possibly can. Use the water that comes out of the tap.

Ruth Page has been following environmental issues for twenty years. She is a long time Vermont resident and currently lives in Shelburne.