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Many people in many developing countries seek out clean drinking water with much difficulty. But developed nations such as the US spend billions of dollars buying bottled water even though their respective countries provide clean drinking water from the tap. What is more is that the plastic bottles that this water comes in create billions of pounds of oil based trash destined to live out a thousand year lifespan in a trash dump.

Bottled water is in many ways an American obsession, with Americans drinking annually 8.6 billion gallons. Not only do they drink vast amounts but Americans are willing to pay 10,000 times the cost of tap water for the privilege of drinking an arguably inferior product. We get the 10,000 times number from the fact that on average bottled water cost $10 per gallon compared to tap water which costs $.0015 per gallon or about a tenth of a penny.

Globally some 53 billion gallons of bottled water are consumed creating a $63 billion dollar industry. One the most peculiar facts is that 40% of this bottled water is actually taken from municipal water sources also known as “tap water”. Another strange element of this puzzle is that far less testing is done on bottled water than on tap water. It turns out that unlike tap water, bottled water isn’t tested for e. coli. More still is the fact that it can be distributed even if it doesn’t meet the quality standards of tap water. Unlike tap water, bottled water isn’t required to produce quality reports or even provide it’s source.

Comically, the bottled water production process is fairly resource intensive. It actually takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce bottled water which is enough oil to fuel 1 million cars for a whole year. Oil isn’t the only necessary resource. Luckily tap water is very cheap because it takes about 3 times the amount of tap water to produce and fill 1 bottle of bottled water.

Sadly, it isn’t just expensive and potentially lower quality to drink bottled water but there is an environmental impact that should be considered. Even though most major cities in America have made recycling available, only 1 in 5 water bottles ever gets recycled. Instead, 4 go to the trash dump to create about 3 billion pounds of waste just from all of the discarded plastic.



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Local Environmental Engineering Schools