On my way to work this morning I read an article about how Americans were turning away from bottled water, back to tap water, because the cost of bottled water is simply not worth it anymore. You can read the same article here. As people have begun to look for ways to cut costs in the face of a bad economy, many are waking up to the fact that bottled water adds up to a huge annual expense, especially if it's your main source of drinking water.
The article only briefly mentions the environmental implications of this changing trend- but of course that's what I'm most excited about. It's not just eliminating the waste of the plastic bottles, but also the production process of those bottles, toxic chemicals involved, the transportation of getting filled bottles from production to consumers, and the draining of certain water resources being tapped by major industry bottled water. Household filters have become very easily accessible (yes, they've got their environmental footprint too) so Americans no longer have the excuse of their local tap water not being quality enough to drink. The article points out that a reverse osmosis water filtration system that costs $200 every 18 months for maintenance is still much cheaper than an annual supply of bottled water.
While I'm celebrating this small victory for the environment, I'm nervous that free and seemingly unlimited tap water does nothing to encourage water conservation. Despite the high cost of bottled water, I suspect it made water conservation habits worse by allowing people to disregard the quality of their local freshwater systems and believe that as long as there is safe drinking water somewhere in the world, they will always have access to it through their wallets. With tap water, Americans are still largely allowed to take their drinking water for granted because they are so removed the original source of that water, and the process required to get clean water to their tap. There is much work to do to ensure the sustainability of clean water for future generations and for the global population, but in the mean time I am thrilled to see hints of the beginning of the end of the bottled water market. Let's hope it lasts.