So they decided to put their marketing prowess to work and came up with a fun brand called Tappening.com. The goal is to make it easy and cool to ditch the store-bought water bottle in favor of a reusable plastic or steel bottle filled with tap.
The site offers a bunch of sobering facts about bottled water, the most impactful being that 40 percent of all bottled water is actually just municipal tap water, and since it is not regulated by the EPA (but rather by the FDA) it has less stringent standards. Research has shown that bottled water often carries unacceptable levels of bacteria and harmful chemicals like arsenic. And for a one-year supply of bottled water, the consumer will spend about $1,400 per year when tap would only cost about 50 cents.
And then there are the huge energy impacts of bottled water. A recent study shows that bottled water uses 2,000 times more energy (in manufacturing and shipping) than tap, requiring (in 2006) over 17,000,000 barrels of oil to produce the plastic containers.
They also include a nifty widget that lets you search by state for reports on how clean your tap water is, ostensibly to encourage you to kick the water bottle habit.
But here's the rub: When you link to the reports on water quality in, for example, LA county you get this almost terrifying report staring back at you:
Yes, LA has about seven times the acceptable pollutant levels (as set by the EPA) in its municipal water supply — 46 pollutants all together including, most notably, very high levels of mercury.
Another issue associated with reusing plastic bottles is bacteria. Every time you swig out of that bottle, you are depositing a rich assortment of bacteria into a warm, watery environment perfect for breeding. I myself have contracted strep twice because of my zealous refilling of old water bottles. And regular soap won't cut it. You either need to run your bottle every few days through a very hot washing machine (and let it dry completely) or use bleach.
So it's not to say I don't agree with the imperative to wean ourselves off bottled water, but we shouldn't kid ourselves about the problem. As the nation starts to wake up to just how bad the municipal water actually is, I fear water companies will have all the more reason to market their supposed liquid purity.
The solution: Machine-washable water bottle + filtration. I'm going to do a little research comparing the latest and greatest water filters out there right now. I currently have a countertop unit which seems to do the trick, but I actually haven't tested it myself. So leave recommendations in the comments.