The Real Story of Bottled Water

Earlier this year, Annie Leonard’s short film “The Story of Bottled Water” blasted the bottled water industry for its deceptive marketing tactics.  She ruffled some feathers along the way, naturally, after suggesting that drinking bottled water is “about as cool as smoking while pregnant.”

Now, the International Bottled Water Association wants you to hear their side of the story. Not to be outdone by Leonard’s quirky little stick figures, “The Real Story of Bottled Water” uses a claymation water bottle to tell the real story of bottled water:

“The Real Story of Bottled Water” is actually correct in saying that the “demand for bottled water is consumer-driven, like any free market economy.” The video goes on to say that bottled water companies do very little advertising, and when they do advertise, they tout the health benefits of bottled water when compared with sodas. This is somewhat ironic, considering the film is an advertisement, and that bottled water offers no more health benefits than tap water.

The film’s high-pitched, clay narrator says that many people don’t like the smell of chlorine in tap water. But it refuses to mention that the taste and odor of chlorine can be removed easily with inexpensive fridge filters, pitcher filters or faucet filters.

The narrator goes on to say that bottled water is closely watched by the FDA, just like any food. The EPA ensures tap water is safe, but the film fails to mention that.

The bottled water industry is consumer-driven, so instead of criticizing bottled water manufacturers, we should be criticizing ourselves for drinking bottled water. After all, they’re not going to take money out of their pockets to tell us why bottled water is bad for the environment.

In closing, the narrator says that water bottles need to be recycled and do not belong in a landfill. It’s hard to deny that. But why not carry a reusable water bottle so that  new water bottles don’t have to be created in the first place? A lot of oil (and ironically, water) goes into manufacturing bottled water and shipping it all across the country.

Most of the film’s points can be easily refuted, but the little clay water bottle saves his best for last: “It’s a no-brainer: bottled water is among the most environmentally-friendly consumer products we have today.”

Mirriam-Webster defines “no-brainer” as “something that requires a minimum of thought.” I’d say “The Real Story of Bottled Water,” which greatly lacks the insight of Annie Leonard’s film, is just that.

UN May Finally Declare Water a Human Right

The United Nations General Assembly is considering a draft resolution declaring safe and clean drinking water and sanitation a fundamental human right. The draft was presented by the Bolivian government to the General assembly on June 17 and will be developed by member states over the next several weeks. The final text will be presented to the President of the General Assembly for consideration by the end of July.

Maude Barlow, founder of Blue Planet Project, urges the swift passage of this resolution in a letter written to all UN ambassadors. Barlow claims that “this would be one of the most important things the UN has done since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Is this really what it’s going to take for everyone across the globe to get safe, clean drinking water and sanitation? A formal, written declaration? Barlow states that “it’s time politics caught up with reality.” But this declaration clearly shows that politics makes reality. In order for something that should already be a reality to become one, a group of world leaders must first agree to it and sign it into practice. Is it just me, or is something wrong with this picture?

SODIS: Is it Safe?

Solar Disinfection of water, also known as SODIS, is a method that uses sunlight to purify water in glass or plastic PET bottles. The method purifies water in anywhere from six hours to two days, depending on the degree of cloudiness in the sky and the turbidity of the water. It is highly regarded for its ease and low-cost, and for these reasons has been implemented in developing countries as a safe, effective method of water purification.

But how safe and effective is it?

The main argument against this method of water disinfection is the use of PET bottles to carry it out. Some claim that it is dangerous to drink water from a plastic bottle that has been left in a hot car for a few hours, because the toxins from the plastic could leach into the water. According to this claim, over time this method of water disinfection could become carcinogenic. Of course, proponents of the method refute this claim, regarding it as perfectly safe. After all, even if SODIS is toxic over time, it is saving lives in the short run, preventing diarrhea in residents of developing countries where gastrointestinal illness from poor water quality can be fatal.

The effectiveness of the method seems questionable too. On cloudy and rainy days, it takes longer to purify the water. If the water is too turbid, it must be filtered first. However, many filters that are available to developing nations do the work of purification as well, rendering SODIS unnecessary. A fairly recent youtube video demonstrates how to purify water using the SODIS method:

(Since when do people in developing countries have access to youtube?)