Step away from the bottled water

I have bottled water on the brain, thanks to a week in Guatemala.  The country’s tap water generally is not safe to drink, so I had to purchase plastic and glass bottles of purified and/or mineral water in restaurants, for daily drinking, and even for brushing my teeth.  It bothered me to create so much petrochemically-derived plastic waste, and it made me appreciate my clean, drinkable, municipal tap water.

So many Americans reject their local tap water, convinced that it is impure or somehow substandard, or simply because they don’t like the taste.  My local tap water source is the tail end of the muddy Mississippi River, right smack in the middle of Louisiana’s so-called “Cancer Alley”,  a 300-mile stretch of more than 100 chemical plants, refineries, grain elevators, and other assorted industrial water discharges.   Despite all of these water challenges, this slightly alkaline tap water doesn’t bother my sourdough breads, doesn’t clog my espresso machine, and it even makes a decent cup of tea.  A simple faucet-mounted water filter makes it more palatable for drinking, and an icemaker filter keeps my ice neutral-tasting.  Plus, it’s amazingly cheap compared to bottled water–which generally costs more per gallon than gasoline.

Chances are, if your attempts at breadmaking are less than successful, it’s your technique, NOT the tap water.  Forget Dasani, Fiji, Evian, or Sam’s Choice:  you probably need to learn more about bread.  Bottled water is no substitute for knowledge.

(We need to bring back drinking fountains, too.  Remember when you could find a drinking fountain in every public building?  Sadly, fountains are hard to find, and this just encourages people to tote around plastic bottled water.  I once spent 15 minutes wandering around East Jefferson General Hospital, searching in vain for a drinking fountain.  No luck.  I found lots of vending machines offering soda and bottled water, but no fountains.  I complained to a nurse about the situation, and she claimed that the fountains were removed to prevent germ transmission.  I countered that it would have been more sensible to clean the fountains regularly and provide lots of hand sanitizer.  I suspect any removals are related to desires to increasing vending-machine sales of bottled water.)

Won’t you join me in kicking the plastic water bottle habit?  A stainless steel water bottle lasts forever, doesn’t discolor or  absorb weird tastes, is stable even inside a hot car, and will last forever.  If you don’t like drinking from stainless steel, try a long-lasting, inert plastic like Nalgene.


8 thoughts on “Step away from the bottled water

  1. I am totally with ya. Every time I leave my house, I have with me, one of each of the bottles you mentioned. I can speculate on a couple of reasons why it is so common nowadays. The first is that many people have become so finicky about their drinking water, to the point where I have overheard two people chattering about the brands of bottled water they like and the brands they do not like; I couldn’t help but laugh when after the discussion concluded, one went out for a cigarette. Aside from brand, “IT HAS TO BE COLD! I HATE WARM WATER!” Okay, well just as you do not enjoy taking medication, assuming you do, do it for your body. Your kidneys will not mind if the water you give them is warm (take it from me…water straight from the tap is typically the coolest water my body ever get. Usually, it has sat in my car for an hour or two and is past the point of lukewarm. The other theory I have is the image people want to promote. Yes, this image is not nearly as obvious as the car one drives, or the clothes one wears, but it is still there, perhaps in the subconscious of the bystander. To carry around a bottle of water is to, broadly, make a statement of affluence, and specifically, project the degree of affluence by the type of label on the bottle. Look at coffee. If I walk into Barnes and Noble with my old, plastic coffee cup, with the faded cartoon of a crab, which says “Don’t bother me. I’m crabby,” I am suggesting to people that I either cannot afford to buy coffee while I am out, or that at least the thought crossed my mind of the frugality of brewing it at home (Little did they know that the reason I brew at home is that I use medium-roasted Tanzanian pea-berry coffee beans, and Starbucks cannot hold a candle to it). Nevertheless, I stand by these behaviors being based on finicky standards and image promotion.

  2. I always liked New Orleans tap water. Sadly, our Phoenix tap water tastes awful, but we do use a filter which helps some. The very best tap water I’ve encountered was in Italy, even in not-so-clean Naples, where we were told that the water comes from the mountains. I actually don’t like drinking out of a bottle, and much prefer a glass or cup with water and ice. The soft drink manufacturers are finding their market for sodas shrinking, and they’re relying more and more on the sale of bottled water to make up the difference.

  3. I am very fortunate to live in Eugene, Oregon. We have been rated with some of the best tap water in the US. So clean and tasty. I only use a filter to take out the chlorine that all cities put in the water to kill germs. Then I go to San Diego to visit my parents and it is so nasty, you have to drink bottled. Steel water bottle is the way to go for sure though.

  4. I use plastic bottles. But I fill them up 5 or 6 times before I recycle them. I need to buy a bunch of bottles that I can use over and over though. I need at least 24 bottles for 1 trip through the swamp right now it’s so hot. That 1 cool camelback bottle I’ve got just won’t cut it.

    • Atchafalaya, I can’t believe YOU don’t have a stainless water bottle–you gave me the one I use all the time!

  5. I got 2 of them. Only trouble is I need a lot more than that in a day, and there aren’t any water fountains to refill them in the swamp. Maybe I should freeze some milk jugs with water. Is that “redneck green”?

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