If natural resources aren't making a profit for someone, are they being wasted? That's the odd question that popped into my mind when I read about a controversy in New Zealand.
Last fall I spent a few days in the country. Whenever I was outside my hotel room, one thought crossed my mind about every five minutes: "New Zealand is so beautiful." The Kiwis I met were all happy to tell me their country is beautiful because the environment and sustainability are a priority for both the people and the government.
So I was mystified when I read that "untapped" glacial water from Lake Greaney and Lake Minim Mere on the South Island may be exported to overseas markets in China, India and the Middle East to become bottled water, as reported in The Guardian.
These waters originate from rainfall on the Southern Alps and lie just outside Mount Aspiring National Park, which is only part of a much larger World Heritage Area.
The company wants to export the water it likes to refer to as "untouched by man." Alpine Pure already has permission to extract the water and is working on getting permission to build a seafloor pipeline to transport it. Residents and environmental groups aren't happy about this development, and a petition signed by 15,000 people has been delivered to New Zealand's Parliament asking for an immediate halt to exporting water for bottling.
Does the water cycle waste water?
We've had a lot of interest in this proposal from overseas companies, and a couple of times we've started chilling the champagne. Pristine water has been falling on the Southern Alps for a million years, and it would usually be wasted by flowing directly out to sea.
His statement got me wondering: how exactly is rain water that flows out to sea wasted? That's what it's supposed to do. It goes out to sea, evaporates and eventually comes down again as rain water. It's part of the water cycle, and it's an integral part of the earth's natural rhythm. The water is certainly not going to waste.
Bottled water consumption is on the rise
This particular fight is happening in New Zealand, but this is an issue for all of us.
Here in the U.S. last year, bottled water consumption overtook soda consumption for the first time ever, according to CBS News. Choosing water over soda is a smart choice, but the water doesn't have to be bottled. Bottled water consumption also rose from the previous year. In 2015, Americans drank 36.5 gallons of bottled water per person. In 2016, we drank 39.3 gallons of bottled water per person.
Of course, there are times when bottled water is important. Those who live in Flint, Michigan, for instance, have a good reason to choose bottled water. But where I live — and probably where you live — a simple water filter and reusable water bottles work just fine.
We all need good, clean water to drink. But for many of us that good, clean water doesn't need to come in one-time use, disposable bottles that more often than not end up in a landfill. (Only 38 percent of the plastic bottles in the U.S. are recycled, according to Ban the Bottle.)
The story out of New Zealand is just one aspect of a bigger problem — but it's one we can easily address, if we just put our minds to it.