Friday, January 18, 2008


In this article we are going to look at an issue I get a little wound up about. The subject matter is bottled water. Let me first state that I have no issue with anybody being successful, even the big bottle water companies. What I do take issue with is being conned. P.T. Barnum once said “you can fool all the people some of the time and some of the people all the time.” In my opinion we are being fooled when it comes to the marketing of bottled water.

To get started with a little tongue-in-cheek humor, take a look at this web site- It is supposed to be funny but I refer to this as “kidding on the square.” Bottled water has become a huge part of our lives in recent years. When we travel in our motorhome I see a lot of folks carrying bottled water with them. We used to do the same thing. We would run to the store and purchase several gallons of water before each trip. We still carry bottled water, but we filter and bottle our own now. It takes a few minutes to do it right but the cost is almost zero. I know where the water comes from and that it is fresh and very high quality.

There was a time not long ago when bottled water didn’t exist. When the bottled water industry first started, companies such as Pepsi-Cola and Coke saw a huge potential. We, the buying public, found bottled water convenient and with very little urging convinced ourselves that buying and drinking water in a bottle was good for us. I agree that it is convenient and there is nothing better than an ice-cold drink of water on a hot summer afternoon. Well, maybe a bottle of beer but you know what I mean. The issue is the water we drink out of a bottle is generally no better than tap water with regard to purity and in some cases, worse. Yes, tap water in general can be objectionable due to residual chlorine. Regionally, you may find high sulfur levels or some other contaminant that is offensive. A large number of RV parks get their water from private wells or out of rivers and may not process their water optimally, possibly rendering it distasteful. Other parks are hooked up to municipal water and you will be faced with residual chlorine. But the technology is available today that will process just about any source water by removing or greatly reducing aesthetic and harmful contaminants whether you get water from a private or municipal supply. The cost to do this is but a small percentage of the investment in bottled water.

Give this some thought. Go into any convenience store and check the price for a liter of soda. It may cost around a dollar. Now check the price for a 16-ounce bottle of water from the same bottling company. What’s that? The water is priced at $1.59? But the less expensive soda is made with water and it has to be as good as the plain bottled water, right? And the soda has flavoring and sweetener in it, an expense not required in the plain water. So what is the deal? This is a no brainer if you do the math.

There are approximately 33.8 ounces in a liter of soda. The retail price per ounce for the liter is 2.9 cents or $3.71 per gallon. A 16-ounce bottle of water at $1.59 works out to 9.9 cents per ounce or $12.67 a gallon. Which item would you rather sell? These numbers will vary from place to place but you get the idea. Enough said.

Now these companies want us to believe that their bottled water is healthy for us and comes from pristine mountain springs or some such rubbish. Just look at the label on most bottles of water. Water falls, mountain vistas, bubbles, deer or other scenes all to subliminally send you the message that this water comes straight from Mother Nature, herself. In reality that water probably comes from the same sources as your tap water. Rivers, lakes, wells and an estimated 40 percent of bottled water comes right out of the municipal water tap at the bottling plant. Boy, are we being taken! Take a look at

Here is another point to ponder. The water we get from the tap is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency. This organization has a lot of rules and regulations and they inspect our public water processing facilities frequently. The operators of these public plants have to be licensed. Product testing is accomplished several times a day. Reports of their water quality have to be routinely filed with the EPA. There is a lot of work that goes into your tap water. Now here is the interesting twist. The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water. Bottled water is produced under a set of rules that the bottled water industry prepared. They have strong lobby presence at both the state and federal level and successfully pushed their agenda through. The rules are entirely different. Little or no testing, no licensing for plant operators and almost non-existent enforcement of the few rules bottlers do have. Did you know that there is no law restricting the amount of some contaminants like fecal matter in bottled water? The bottlers are pretty much free to do what they want. It all has to do with money and profit. You know as well as I do that this goes on in many industries. Money is a powerful motivator. Your health and well-being are not important.

There is an organization called the Natural Resources Defense Council that you may want to check out. They are a watchdog group and boy do they have a lot to say about the water we drink. On their website look for the Executive Summary and take a hard look at Chapter 4. Appendix A is a list of bottled water test results and in Table 1 you will find a side-by-side comparison of the EPA and FDA rules. Of course, the rest of the website is interesting too.

The perfect water will consist of hydrogen and oxygen and have an optimum level of minerals that our bodies require. The perfect water will be at a PH of between 6.5 and 8.5. This water will be crystal clear to very light blue and present a pleasant taste. Unfortunately our water will always be less than perfect. So, we have to do what we can to render it as safe as possible. There are processes and filtering techniques that do work and we will talk about these options in article four of this series.

In the mean time, if you still feel bottled water makes sense, here is a trick you can use to raise the bar a little. Buy bottled water that is not produced in the state you make the purchase. Look at the label. If you are in Virginia, look for water that is bottled someplace other than Virginia. The reason is that in-state water is bottled under that states bottling rules (some states now have some kind of policy on bottled water but may not have the funds to monitor bottled water production. In Texas, for instance, there are around 300 water bottlers. The state has just one dedicated inspector to oversee them.) In-state bottled water is generally exempt from federal rules. If that same water is shipped across state lines, it has to have been processed under both state and federal rules. Now this is not going to make it that much better in view of the FDA’s weak stand, but any reduction of exposure to contaminants is good. Some states have developed significantly better rules for bottled water than the federal government.

Well, if bottled water is not the answer, what is? When we get to the end of this series, you will have the knowledge and the ability to process and enjoy good tasting and healthy water, no matter where you wander. In the next article (number three) we will look at the different categories of contaminants. In article 4 we will review the many different ways to reduce or eliminate these contaminants while on the road. Please feel free to contact me via email at Oh, one last thought. If you are concerned about the water at home, review the website found at

Happy Trails - Jim

No comments: