SEPT. 20, 2015 — The packaging of drinking water in clear, single-serve bottles is so preposterous that its success clearly reflects genius marketers. That so many consumers now spend up to 1,000 times as much on bottled water in the belief that this water is somehow superior to what they draw from the tap is nothing short of remarkable. By one count, Americans now buy 42.6 billion individual 1-liter bottles of water annually, and it’s rising. As few as a third of those bottles get recycled.
Making, or spending, scads of money on packaging ordinary water aside, remember that water is an essential element for all forms of life. So it’s important to consider some things when treating water as a consumer product rather than a human right.
Hydrologists say many aquifers around the world are running out. The world’s fast-growing human population is placing greater demands on water resources everywhere, and demand is on track to outstrip supply. Against that backdrop, does it make sense to commoditize water and sell it to the highest bidder? Yet that is what is happening.
Nestle, of course, says yes. The huge food company’s Deer Park division is working with public officials and residents in Eldred Township to gain approvals to withdraw 200,000 gallons of water a day from a property there for bottling purposes and haul it away in trucks.
Areas like Pennsylvania, with its traditionally abundant rainfall, productive aquifers and stable population, are likely to come under increasing pressure from other areas not so blessed — the American southwest, for example, where the human population is growing but the aquifers cannot sustain them. Elsewhere in the world, drought and ongoing disputes over ever-scarcer supplies of water are driving migration. Drought is one of the driving forces behind the bloody war in Syria and the exodus of refugees.
Against this backdrop, surely even the fussiest consumer certainly ought to think twice about buying water that costs more than a gallon of gasoline.