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Why do we gladly swallow the bottled water rip off?

Bottles of water

I very rarely drink bottled water; I’m happy to get it from the tap. On the few occasions I’m forced to buy one after forgetting my refillable bottle, I do it begrudgingly. Do you buy bottled still water?

At a conference last week I was charged £1.60 for a 500ml bottle. What nonsense, especially as I can get it for free out of the tap. Plus in this case, the tea, coffee and soft drinks all cost less.

The British Soft Drinks Association worked out that we drank 33 litres of bottled water per person in 2010. That might not sound like a lot, but it extrapolates to us spending £1,440 million on the stuff in just one year! Although it’s justifiable to buy sparkling bottled water, 72% of that was on still water.

Bottled or tap water?

I just don’t get it, why are we paying for something we can get perfectly safe from a tap? And I’m not even considering the environmental aspects of producing so many plastic bottles.

A few weeks ago, the Telegraph reported that ‘bottled water contains more bacteria than tap water’. Scientists in Canada found that 70% of bottled water widely available in shops contained high levels of bacteria, often one hundred times more than the permitted level.

Many people might assume that because they’re paying through the nose for it, bottled water is a purer product. Yet, as the above research suggests, this isn’t necessarily the case. In fact, it appears drinking tap water may not only be kinder to your wallet and the environment, it could potentially be better for your health.

Do you buy bottled still water?

No (69%, 491 Votes)

Yes (31%, 224 Votes)

Total Voters: 714

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SJ says:
8 July 2011

We drink filtered water at home, and take it with us in bottles when we’re out. Occassionally we’ll run out of bottled water (and not be near a tap) and buy some; these, along with soda and juice bottles get washed and re-used to take water with us when we’re out.

I’ve read that the plastics in water bottles break down over time, so we recycle ours periodically and start with fresh ones. I’d love to see specifically designed reusable water bottles come on the market that don’t leak, that you can actually get inside to clean properly, and made of something that won’t break down. May take a tip from above and use a flask, though it’s much heavier than what I’d rather.

Papasmurf says:
8 July 2011

Have you ever tasted the tap water in West Wickham?
Viva Caledonian mineral water from the orange supermarkets.
However I would be interested in anyone’s thoughts on water filters as I do recognize the “fortune” I’m pouring down the drain – well something like that!!

In the South West the tapwater tastes foul – full of chemicals – it’s even blue. Water filters last only 10 days to a fornight before they taste bad, so we use bottled water to drink cold, and filtered, boiled for hot drinks. As a chemically sensitive family we don’t have much option.
One environmental advantage of bottled water over other drinks is that most beer, juices or soft drinks take many litres of water to produce one litre of drink.

Calleva says:
8 July 2011

Canary, what exactly do you mean when you say SW water is ‘full of chemicals’ and ‘it’s even blue’?
There are very stringent standards applied to drinking water supplied to the public, which are enforced by the Drinking Water Inspectorate. Go to the DWI website (dwi.defra.gov.uk) and look at ‘The Water Supply (Water Quality) Regulations 2007’ before you make sweeping statements. If you have a concern about the quality of your tap water then raise it with your water supplier (in your case probably South West Water).
I have spent a lifetime working in the water industry for both a company that designs and builds large scale water treatment plant and later for one of the major water supply companies and I can say with confidence that tap water supplied throughout the UK is of the highest quality. I would NEVER knowingly drink bottled water when tap water is available.

Blue because filling the bath (which is white) from the tap shows clear blue water. This has never happened in any other region I have lived.
Full of chemicals – chemically treated water is what comes out of the taps. That is what makes it “safe” to drink. The water regulations are primarily to prevent water from killing us. They do that very well on the whole (although the Camelford incident shows how water companies will try to cover up any problems). But the standard they work to is not sufficient for those of us who are chemically sensitive. The water filters here last for such a short time, that we assume there are more chemicals in it than in other places we have lived.
We can taste and smell the chemicals in tap water, eg chlorine which is easily recognised, along with others which we can taste but do not recognise. Some days it smells and tastes much stronger than other days. Perhaps our water is more contaminated and needs more?
It is well known that chemicals such as chlorine are in the water – that is why the water filter market exists.
The fact that we can taste the chemicals in it means they are there. If you cannot taste them, it is nicer, but you are still taking them in. I am glad most people don’t have our problems with it (I wouldn’t wish this illness on anyone), and still consider it a luxury to have water piped into our homes, especially to have hot water on tap aswell.

Brian D says:
8 July 2011

I have never bought bottled water in my life, I believe it is the biggest con going and people fall for it.
Our own tap water is very hard and can sometimes taste of chlorine but we now always use a filter and it is fine. I saw a program recently about Eddie Stobart in which they showed Stobart rail operating a massive train every day to import Evian bottled water from France. What a waste of money and energy, the people who buy this stuff should be ashamed of themselves.

High bacteria levels in bottle water, tap water dosed with chlorine, I sticking with beer!

You might expect beer to contain water, yeast, barley and hops. There is no requirement to list the ingredients in the UK, so be prepared for a shock if you speak to someone in the brewing industry.

Why not use water that has been boiled and allowed to cool to take your pills?

Sorry – this is was intended to be a reply to the comment by Alan T.

Yusuf says:
8 July 2011

I do, because when your on the go, you need water, and its there. Its healthier than fizzy drinks, but I know i should by one bottle and refil it!

It should be a legal requirement for airport authorities to provide drinking water after security and, as in some other countries, to allow you to take empty bottles through security

Roger C says:
9 July 2011

Unfortunately, the pretentious and the misguided folk who swagger around with bottles of designer water in their hands are unlikely to read or care about the foregoing remarks, any more than I care about their silly ways. One certainly cannot blame the entrepreneurs for cashing in on this lucrative fad. We all, however, tend to take the blessing of clean water on tap for granted in this country. How dare we moan about the taste when dysentery and cholera from polluted water are rife in the world. I will admit that I prefer the taste of tea made with filtered water when I am at home, but it isn’t a big deal if I am out.

P.S. Renovation of drinking fountains sounds like a great idea. In Europe one can sometimes drink it virtually channeled straight from the ground (natural springs). I have sometimes – common sense prevailing – quenched my thirst from a stream, bacteria and all, with no ill-effects whatsoever. Unfortunately, the ‘elf and safety brigade are busily at work, trying to justify their dreary existence by removing 99.9% of all known risks from the universe.

I am amazed to find so many people who now need to carry drinking water with them at all times. Can anyone enlighten me as to the reason for this?
As for myself, I seldom, if ever, feel the need to drink water between my normal meal times. Perhaps this perceived need to drink bottled water is a result of the massive advertising indulged in by the water bottling companies, rather than any physical need of the body?

Absolutely. There is no doubt that it is important to drink sufficient water or other fluids, but there is no need for normal people to have continuous access. It is a mixture of habit and fashion.

Having said that, some people have medical conditions that makes it necessary or desirable to drink regularly. For example, diabetics can have an insatiable thirst and drink much more than a healthy person.

We need Which? (aka the Consumers’ Association) in the fight against consumerism. 🙂

Peter Larson says:
9 July 2011

I have bought a water filter jug and I top it up with tap water and then I fill a empty water bottle and take that with me when I go out. I also use empty soft drink bottles for long trip’s.

99.9% sticks in my mind too. I believe that this is simply a marketing ploy to mislead the general public into buying unnecessary products (have you ever used a ‘germy soap pump’ without washing both of your hands afterwards?).

No-one has mentioned exactly what type of bacteria are found in some bottled waters, but I’m assuming that they must be non-pathogenic or surely it would be illegal to sell the stuff (think of something like cheese), and remember, even healthy humans carry more bacteria cells than human cells. Although I have the luxury of ‘tap’ water as an alternative to bottled water, it doesn’t contain chlorine or any other of those maligned water company added chemicals, so doubtless it also contains a plethora of bacteria, but I don’t care. No-one in the house has ever suffered any ill effects from drinking it: it tastes great, and it makes a beautiful cup of tea. Incidentally, it’s piped directly from a spring.

Rachel says:
10 July 2011

We have a sodastream for making fizzy water at home to mix with squash, or just drink as plain fizzy water. It saves buying and lugging heavy bottles of water and bottles of fizzy drinks.

Perversely I buy from the supermarket a stock of small bottles of still water to take out and about and to school as I don’t like the taste of our local very hard tap water and nor do the children. Although in Derbyshire where my parents live, the soft tap water there is delicious and I certainly wouldn’t ever buy bottled water if I lived there.

In response to the comments about carrying a bottle of water about at all times, at our childrens’ school the kids are encouraged to have a water bottle at school in the classroom so they have access to drinking water at all times. I think the trend nowadays is that it is healthier to drink little and often especially water. Not everyone I know carries water with them all the time, I do when I go out, but then it saves me buying expensive drinks -when you are having to buy drinks for a whole family it gets very pricey -, and I grudge paying the prices of expensive bottles of water when I can bring a much cheaper one with me! And if there isn’t anywhere to get a drink I have water so none of us gets thirsty. Also I think it is a good healthy habit for children to get into to be happy to drink water whether bottled or tap when they are thirsty, rather than pester for squash, fizzy etc.

Rachel: It might be better if the school thought about the environment and educated children to do the same. It is not difficult to provide a hygienic drinking fountain, avoiding wasting resources and money on plastic cups.

Alec James says:
11 July 2011

When bottled water first appeared I thought it a ridiculous idea that wouldn’t work and would die off very quickly. Mind, I thought the same about satellite t.v. and mobile phones. How wrong I was but I’m still amazed by the gullibility of the human race…..

Val King says:
11 July 2011

I prefer sparkling water and invested in a Sodastream to carbonate tap water. I find I drink more water when it’s cold and fizzy, and this does the job very effectively.

Margie says:
11 July 2011

Only buy sparkling water, instead of alcohol, soft drinks etc which I don’t drink. Considered sodastream but it would cost more to make my own than to buy it at Aldi prices (25p for 2L). Not the whole point of course…I give regular conscience donation to Wateraid. and I agree with previous comment- when will someone design a refillable water bottle which is as easy to hold and drink from as the commercial ones bought with water in? Have tried several- metal, plastic etc -and not one is really lightweight, narrow enough to grip easily and with a good [not ‘sports’] neck.

Michelle says:
12 July 2011

Water fountains seem more plentiful in the rest of Europe, something we need to improve on here in England!

I too buy a bottle of water and keep refilling it from the tap. The seals on the bottles seem to hold better than other ones so it doesn’t leak all over my bag. Once the bottle is so out of shape it wont stand up then I replace it. I would say I but 1 x 1l bottle of Buxton a month. I also know that when I have drunk 2 bottles full a day I have had the recommended 2l of fluid.

The amount of water needed depends on many factors, including temperature, how active we are, weight and gender. Various organisations recommend that we consume different daily intakes, ignoring these facts.

Signals that we need to drink are thirst and urine that is darker than normal and it is best to err on the side of drinking more rather than less. There is also no need for a healthy individual to carry water where ever they go.

The government needs to raise money to pay off our debts. A 500% tax on bottle water would be a good start. Let’s call is a Green Tax!