“Bottled water is the fastest-growing major beverage category in the U.S.” — Forbes magazine

Bottled WaterHow much do you spend each month on bottled water? I have no idea really but I drink a bottle (1.5 Liters) everyday and although we buy in bulk, I suspect that our bottled water expenditure is between $20 and $30 per month.

Just about every media outlet has been doing their version of the bottled vs. tap water story the past month. Perhaps it started when The Consumerist pointing out this FAQ from the New York City 2006 Drinking Water Supply and Quality Report. They write, “Should I buy bottled water?”

Answer: “You do not need to buy bottled water for health reasons in New York City since our water meets all federal and State health-based drinking water standards. Also, bottled water costs up to 1,000 times more than the City’s drinking water.”

Soon after, NPR piped in and reported about the city of New York and their campaign to get people to rediscover the benefits of tap water. Jim Zarroli reports, “So the city recently kicked off a campaign called Get Your Fill, with ads extolling the virtues of tap water. The city recently dispatched a team of young men to Harlem to hand out empty blue plastic bottles. The idea was that instead of buying spring water, people could fill the bottles with tap water and carry them around all day.” Not everyone is buying the promotion… click over to hear more.

Fastcompany provided their interpretation on this topic in Message in a Bottle. Charles Fishman writes, “A chilled plastic bottle of water in the convenience-store cooler is the perfect symbol of this moment in American commerce and culture. It acknowledges our demand for instant gratification, our vanity, our token concern for health. Its packaging and transport depend entirely on cheap fossil fuel.”

“Yes, it’s just a bottle of water–modest compared with the indulgence of driving a Hummer. But when a whole industry grows up around supplying us with something we don’t need–when a whole industry is built on the packaging and the presentation”it’s worth asking how that happened, and what the impact is. And if you do ask, if you trace both the water and the business back to where they came from, you find a story more complicated, more bemusing, and ultimately more sobering than the bottles we tote everywhere suggest.”

In the meantime, Jennifer Aniston seems to always be caught by the paparazzi with bottle in hand. Why? In April she signed on as the new spokeswoman for Smartwater. The product contains electrolytes which are supposed to quench thirst quicker. “We were thrilled that Jennifer discovered Smartwater and realized what a difference it makes to her healthy lifestyle,” said Rohan Oza, Smartwater’s SVP of Marketing as quoted in US magazine. I bet they’re thrilled. But is the “healthy” just more marketing… Do I really need electrolytes in my water?

Chris Baskind at LighterFootstep.com asks, “Bottled water is healthy water — right?”

“That’s what the marketers would have us believe. Just look at the labels or the bottled water ads: deep, pristine pools of spring water; majestic alpine peaks; healthy, active people gulping down icy bottled water between biking in the park and a trip to the yoga studio.”

“Bottled water is big business. But in terms of sustainability, bottled water is a dry well. It’s costly, wasteful, and distracts from the brass ring of public health: the construction and maintenance of safe municipal water systems.”

Chris came up with a list of reasons to kick the bottle water habit. Click on the 5 Reasons to Not Drink Bottled Water for the expanded explanation. Here are the highlights:

  • Bottled water isn’t a good value
  • No healthier than tap water
  • Bottled water means garbage
  • Bottled water means less attention to public systems
  • The corporatization of water

Finally, Chris writes, “What can you do? There’s a simple alternative to bottled water: buy a stainless steel thermos, and use it. Don’t like the way your local tap water tastes? Inexpensive carbon filters will turn most tap water sparking fresh at a fraction of bottled water’s cost.”

So what do you think? Is bottled water a waste of money? Weigh in below.