Bottled water is the world’s fastest-growing commercial beverage. Yet few of us question where this water comes from. How safe is it? What are its effects on the environment? We seem to believe that bottled water is unquestionable healthier, safer and of superior quality. But the reality is surprisingly different.
from Sound Vision on bottled water:
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Similar problems are reported in Texas and in the Great Lakes region of North America, where farmers, fishers, and others who depend on water for their livelihoods are suffering. They are witnessing a drop in local groundwater tables from concentrated water extraction by large companies.
In its production and disposal, bottled water consumes and destroys resources at an astounding rate. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the most common plastic in water bottles, is derived from crude oil. Imagine a water bottle filled a quarter of the way up with oil--that’s how much oil produced the bottle. One-quarter of bottled water crosses national boundaries before it reaches consumers, requiring more oil for transport. The production of a bottle also consumes more water—three to five times more—than the bottle itself will hold.
Water bottles are the fastest-growing form of municipal solid waste in the United States and Canada. More than 85 percent of bottles consumed globally are tossed into the trash rather than the recycling bin. They either rot in landfills or are incinerated. These water bottles release highly toxic chemicals into the air and water when they are manufactured, and again when they are burned or buried. Buried water bottles take up to 1,000 years to break down, and even then, they never completely biodegrade.
A worse fate awaits bottles than end up in the ocean. Ten percent of all plastic reaches the ocean and 900 kilometers off the coast of California, a massive, expanding island of plastic debris, 30 meters deep and bigger than the province of Quebec, swirls in what is called the North Pacific Gyre. Plastic doesn’t biodegrade in the ocean. It photodegrades, which means that under sunlight it disintegrates into smaller and smaller pieces. The tiniest bits of plastic, called nurdles, enter the food chain when marine animals and birds eat them. Nurdles absorb and accumulate toxins as they move up the food chain. More than a million birds and marine animals die every year from eating plastic waste or entangling in plastic.
BPA exhibits hormone-like properties that raise concern about its suitability in some consumer products and food containers. Since 2008, several governments have investigated its safety, which prompted some retailers to withdraw polycarbonate products. The FDA has ended its authorization of the use of BPA in baby bottles and infant formula packaging, based on market abandonment, not safety. The European Union and Canada have banned BPA use in baby bottles.
A 2010 report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified possible hazards to fetuses, infants, and young children.
California is currently experiencing one of the worst droughts on record, and Governor Jerry Brown has called for a 20 percent drop in consumption. There was an emergency state rule passed that has cities restricting outdoor water use and even Lady Gaga is behind a new PSA campaign to get Californians to conserve water. However, due to land and water rights, Nestle continues to be able to bottle Californian water.
The Nestle plant, located in Cabazon, California, provides water for both Arrowhead and Nestle Pure Life. The land is part of the Morongo Band of Mission Indians’ reservation, west of Palm Springs. This is a desert country where springs are rare and aquifers are in decline.
“The reason this particular plant is of special concern is precisely because water is so scarce in the basin,” president of the Pacific Institute Peter Gleick told The Desert Sun. ”If you had the same bottling plant in a water-rich area, then the amount of water bottled and diverted would be a small fraction of the total water available. But this is a desert ecosystem. Surface water in the desert is exceedingly rare and has a much higher environmental value than the same amount of water somewhere else.”
Originally, the spring in Millard Canyon was used for local drinking water. Then the water rights were sold to the Morongo tribe. Nestle leases the land from the tribe, part of a 25-year deal they signed in the early 2000s after the Morongo Tribe got the water rights, and since the land is considered sovereign land of the Morongo tribe, it’s not subject to state regulations or agencies. Which means the State of California can’t really do anything about Nestle bottling up those precious drops of water. On top of that, no one really knows how much water Nestle is taking. The Morongo Indians aren’t obligated to report data on groundwater pumping or well levels as they are exempt from oversight by local agencies.
“Arrowhead provides a lot of jobs, and that helps the economy. On the other hand, Arrowhead has a reputation of going into small communities and taking advantage — and basically, pump them dry and good to the last drop,” Calvin Louie, the Cabazon Water District’s general manager told USA Today. “Everybody affects the aquifer, the water level, but who’s to blame? Well, you know, when you don’t have the data and when you have no groundwater management, it’s a shot in the dark.”
In fact, as The Desert Sun reports, no one is really sure what’s going on with the stream in Millard Canyon, whose wells Nestle draws its water from. “To what extent the spring may still be flowing isn’t clear because the tribe controls access to that area at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains. But drawing water out of the canyon means less water flowing in the stream and seeping downhill to recharge aquifers.”
While in the short term, it just seems ridiculous to be drawing water and selling it for a profit in a time when the State of California is suffering from a drought, in the long run, if the water runs dry, there will be much worse consequences.
Plastic Water Bottles Causing Flood of Harm to Our Environment.
by Norm Schriever