Anyway you look at it tap water is better… better for the environment, better for the community, better for your health.
Go Green Derry and the Derry Conservation Commission recently hosted a screening of the documentary Tapped. This documentary, about the issues surrounding bottled water vs tap water, should not have surprised me but I guess I only considered the issue to be about the plastic waste.
I learned a couple of important things about water and how we consume it. First of all it was the 1980’s when large beverage companies grabbed hold of the idea that they could make money bottling water and selling it. All they had to do was convince consumers that tap water was of lessor quality. Not a hard notion for us to swallow; after all tap water was free, how good could it be? So we bought it, hook, line and sinker. We turned our noses up at tap water, we wanted pure spring water which eventually became purified bottled water also known as tap water in a bottle. These corporations have made billions and billions of dollars selling us something they get virtually free.
Problem #1… Where does the water come from?
Whether it is a natural spring aquifer or a bottling plant, purifying municipal tap water, the water comes from the ground. Water is as precious as crude oil and even more valuable because we can’t survive without it. But there seems to be little or no regulation as to how much water a company can pull from the ground. This wreaks havoc on the water table, particularly in a drought, and often causes problems for communities living nearby. It’s OK, if your well is not working you can always go buy some water, right?
Problem #2… Who is regulating the water?
Municipal water is highly regulated by the EPA and they are tough. Tap water is safe, and the town of Derry posts annual water quality reports online. Bottled water is regulated by the FDA and only if it is transported across state lines. Recently the FDA has found itself to be vilified by more than one environmental group; claiming that the FDA has been bought by greedy corporations and the lobbyist that do their bidding. To be fair though, I have included a link to a 2009 report on Bottled Water regulation by the FDA which might shed a more even light. The FDA does not have as much authority as the EPA and may be understaffed.
Problem #3… What about those plastic bottles?
To me, this is still the worst part about bottled water. While the FDA did not ban BPA, the controversial chemical in clear plastic, in food containers, the science about its long-term effects on humans is still coming in.
In addition, plastic and in particular plastic bottles are becoming an environmental nightmare. Derry does recycle all plastic (including ridgid plastics without the familiar triangle on it). However, during our last clean-up, we were suprised to find so many plastic bottles out along our streets! That means that most of our plastic waste is finding its way out of the recycling stream and into our roads and eventually into our oceans. This is a serious problem. And it is OUR problem, here in Derry. We need to be sure that when we do purchase any plastic food/drink container, that is is properly disposed of in our recycling bins and not flying out of our trash and into the roads.
Problem #4… Why are we still drinking bottled water?
The answer to this question is that many still believe what water companies are telling them, that bottled water is better. Are you on Municipal tap water???? Are you on well water???? How do you know that it is of lesser or equal quality? You can find out simply by going to the Town of Derry’s Water Department website: http://www.derry-nh.org/Pages/DerryNH_Water/water. There you will find information about the municipal tap water and get the water reports for this year and past years. You can also access the community well reports as well. If you have a private well, you can have it tested for coliform bacteria (indications of possible septic system leaching into your well) and for a bit more money, you can have the test include lead, arsenic, fluoride, and more. The basic water tests should be done at least every two years but talk to your water testing company about the schedule and types of tests you should have done with your particular well and its location.
So how to kick the bottled water habit? For some, it is all about convenience and educating themselves about their own water resources. For others, it’s about changing habits. Bit by bit, I am trying to eliminate the plastic in my life and it is hard to do. Let’s face it, plastic has its place in our lives, but does it need to be in everything? Last year it was breaking the habit of accepting a plastic bag at the grocery store. This year I will work on keeping my metal canteen close by and filling it at the tap. What small change can you do to make a big difference in Derry?
Want to learn more?
Go to the Town of Derry Water Department’s website and learn about the quality of our own tap water! Also, Go Green Derry and the Derry Conservation Commission would be happy to show this documentary and share in a discussion with any interested local Derry group. View the trailer below and contact us for more information.