Have the "water wars" already started?

Kristina M
Posted September 29, 2015 from United States
Cascade Mountains
Cascade Mountains: Cascade Mountains waiting for some snow (1/1)

As I have been reading the submissions to the Climate Justice Initiative, I kept wondering if there was an issue that I needed to speak up for and I kept hearing a voice say “water”. When I thought about it some more, I realized that since there were so many different issues on the subject, it would be hard to discuss them all, I picked one that I see every day.

This issue is the consumption of bottled water. While I occasionally purchase bottled water, I do try to use my water filter for drinking and cooking and my reusable water bottle as much as possible. In August, I read an article in the Washington Post titled “America’s growing love affair with the most wasteful thing to drink there is.” (See link below) The article discussed how the environmental footprint of bottled water is much greater than the footprint of the water that comes out of the tap. Besides saying that most of the plastic bottles the water comes in are not recycled, the article also mentioned that it takes three liters of water to make one liter of bottled water!

This article reminded me of a conversation I had earlier in the summer with a friend from school and she asked me when I thought the “water wars” were going to start. Without hesitation I answered, “They already have.” We went on to talk about how the drought restrictions in California were causing an uproar between farmers and the bottled water manufactures. We also discussed how Nestle wants to put a new bottled water factory in our state of Oregon along the Columbia River. Even though this factory will bring needed jobs to this area, there has been considerable pushback and opponents are currently trying to put a measure on the ballot to basically stop it from being built.

It has been very dry in the western part of the United States. In Oregon, most of the state has been declared under “drought conditions” by the governor. This includes the area Nestle wants to build their factory. People are concerned about shipping water out of an area that is technically under a drought.

So, what can women in the United States do to make sure our water is used as resourcefully as possible? After I read the Washington Post article I kept thinking why we are so tap water adverse? Is it the marketing of bottled water’s convenience? Is it due to a perceived belief that tap water is somehow inferior or not safe? I do realize in some parts of the country there are contaminated ground water tables and in others there are water delivery infrastructure issues due to the lack of money to upgrade facilities. But for the rest of us, is bottled water the best answer? Would the purchase of a water filter be a better choice?

Even if the western United States experiences the much needed winter storms this year, I believe the “water wars” will continue on. I think one of the first steps we can be doing is take a look at our own bottled water use and decide if we should change a consumption habit and if so act on it.

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Comments 4

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Surya Simon
Sep 29, 2015
Sep 29, 2015

Dear Kristina,

I love the title of your post with emphasis on "water wars". There is lack of water in many parts of the world and it is new information for me about how it takes 3 litres of water to make 1 littre of bottled water. I also feel that tap water is considered to be unclean and hence, people prefer bottled water. But, I feel a water filter is good. In my home, we use wells because of which we do not know the shortage of water. We drink tap water which has been filtered. We have put a water filter and the water is quite good. I think that is a good method. If this works well for even a few, the consumption habit changes and other people can use it as well. I am alo sure that there are other solutions but everything changes with people's will to change.

Regards,

Surya

Kristina M
Oct 01, 2015
Oct 01, 2015

Thanks for your comments Surya.  One thing I just want to clear up our tap water is treated at a water treatment plant and is actually safe.  I guess I should have made that clearer in my story.  I just question why so many who have safe water like me, rely so heavily on bottled water. The reason I use a water filter is to remove some of the chlorine/chemically taste that I can detect if I drink a glass of water straight from the tap.  So I understand if the tap water does not taste that great, you will use another resource for water.  I just question whether bottled water is the best answer. 

I first heard the phrase "water wars" a few years ago when disputes over water rights related to irrigation started to appear in court.  As I have been watching the headlines for these cases and new cases being brought up I think it is appropriate, we are going to be fight over this if it continues to be dry.

Tamarack Verrall
Oct 12, 2015
Oct 12, 2015

Hello Kristina,

This is an important piece on water, thanks for raising the issue of bottled water. I, too have bought it when it was unnecessary, and am determined not to. Your information that 2/3 of the water per bottle is used simply to bottle it, strengthens my resolve. Carrying a reusable container and filling up from the tap works. We are so lucky to be able to do so. I believe that here in North America, those of us with easy safe access to drinkable water have taken it for granted. Those in drought areas, or on 1/5 of Aboriginal lands in Canada where water is not drinkable due to mining pollution, emergency measures must be in place. The unnecessary use of bottled water is, I agree, due to the (proven erronious) perception that bottled water is cleaner, coupled with ease of access. Nestle is making inroads here, too. We here in North America are the guardians and protectors of vast amounts of water, which we need to preserve and share globally. The water wars are happening between big businesses fighting over control. We need to keep water free and public, for the sake of all. Thanks for caring.

Tam

Kristina M
Oct 12, 2015
Oct 12, 2015

Dear Tam,

Thank you for your kind words.  I agree that the marketing machine of big business has greatly influenced the public's perception of tap water being less than ideal.  When researching this, I ran across a quote from a Nestle spokesperson who said that "Water is essential and if people weren't drinking our bottled water, they'd be drinking tap water or soda or beer."   My response is to point out that their would be factory employees are currently drinking out of the tap the water they want to bottle up.  There is good tap water out there and people need to realize that.