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.