Your best water source: Tap or bottled?

Water-related subjects such as weather, floods, drought or contamination are often featured on the news promoted to the public; the situation in Flint, Michigan is a case in point. These topics can be great concern throughout the United States and the world and significantly affect our daily lives; thus, like every subject, information and understanding are essential…

The Marshall Utilities recently included a pamphlet in its monthly greeting to customers entitled “Consumer Confidence Report.” It contains the results of monitoring parameters performed on its drinking water during the last year. The report, although somewhat detailed, initiates thought and confidence and should be reviewed by all of us.

Like fellow columnist Ted Rowe, I enjoy relating stories of my experiences to interested adult and curious but often skeptical youth. The varied experiences of life in the 1940s-1980s even continue to provide reliable insights into some events in the new century. Social “critics” and comedy writers such as Rowe(n) and Martin might agree! (Rowen and Martin’s “Laugh In” was a TV comedy show of the 1960s-’70s).

The basic subject of drinking water sources is a childhood adventure which has amazingly continued into modern health news. When I moved to a rural Illinois town in 1945, our water source was an aged local public well with the long-handled pump, which required some time and arm muscle to draw the water. In the winter, we would drink water trapped in the ice of a nearby lake; in summer, the garden hose and the “bubbler” (water fountain) were readily available. In retrospect, these less-than-purified water sources likely provided greater taste but more stimuli to my immune system than I realized.

In the past 20 years or so, undoubtedly related to the phenomenal interest in health, wellness, exercise, and environmental awareness, bottled water has burst upon the scene. “Sales of bottled water have surpassed those of milk and beer, and now, second only to soda, bottled water is on the verge of becoming the most popular beverage in this country.” This amazing statement is found in the cleverly entitled book by Elizabeth Royte: “Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It.” Bottled water has become a billion-dollar business with ramifications for the environment (plastic bottle recycling and disposal) and the economy (billion dollar costs). It is estimated that bottle water costs about $3.79 per gallon, which is 2,000 times the cost of tap water and 100 times the cost of home-filtered water…and yet we buy it!

Of course, some consumers believe that bottle water is better. Bottled water is certainly more portable and that portability lends itself to increased use in our mobile society. Compared to some tap water, it is more (or less) tasty, and its use, especially in children, requires supplemental fluoride medication to prevent dental diseases. However, it is a well-known fact that the dangers in drinking water are often from the contaminants that you cannot taste…and the ones that are removed by municipal purification systems. The Environmental Working Group has determined that bottled water contains disinfectants, fertilizer residues, fluorides (in some cases) and even medications… Fluoride can be present because municipal water supplies are the source of greater than one-third of so-called bottled water! It is often an unappreciated fact that the water contained in that bottle with the attractive label depicting a mountain stream, a flowing spring, or glacial ice often contains water from a municipal source and marketed by a food industry giant. A commercial label noted by the Natural Resources Defense Council titled “Spring Water” showed a picture of a lake surrounded by mountains; in actuality, the water in the bottle was obtained from an industrial parking lot next to a hazardous waste site!

Common sense should tell us which source of water is best for us. Such reasonableness should also guide us as to the volumes of water we need to consume daily. A common recommendation has been eight glasses of water each day. Generally, physicians and nutritionists now suggest we drink liquids as our thirst demands, but at least one large glass of some liquid (or variants) with each meal.

An excellent short discussion of bottle water appropriate for both adult and children is available at www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-bottled-water.