Monday, April 21, 2008

Bottled water fact sheet

"Water is a very good servant, but it is a cruel master."

This fact sheet is being developed to support OPSEU's environmental program and decision to phase out and ban private, bottled water from all OPSEU functions and facilities by November 1, 2008 (including water coolers) . While not listed at this time, sources for this information are available and will be published here in the next version.


Did you know that the cost of transporting bottled water is measured in “water miles”?

OPSEU policies related to private, bottled water
“Public services must not be provided by private firms or individuals whose profit-seeking priorities and lack of accountability are incompatible with public services.” OPSEU Policy Manual – 23.1 – General
"To adequately safeguard the drinking water and the environment in Ontario, government laboratories must do all testing, and it is mandatory that all results be forwarded to the appropriate authorities." OPSEU Convention 2002
"OPSEU will support and continue to promote efforts to bring privately-controlled water facilities under public control and promote increased transparency and public accountability of waterworks already under public control."OPSEU Convention 2002

Bottled Water Litmus Test

1) Is drinking water a publicly-provided and delivered service?
Yes. In Ontario, municipalities have had that responsibility for generations. The ability to deliver clean drinking water to all people was a milestone in human civilization, even if still unrealized by many around the world, including Ontario.

2) Do private firms have profit-seeking priorities in the sale of bottled water?
Yes. The profits are huge in bottled water. Coke, Pepsi and Nestles make up the core of “big water”

3) Is the bottled water industry accountable to the public?
No, they are accountable to their stockholders.

4) Is bottled drinking water tested by government laboratories?

5) Is the drinking water “industry” compatible with municipal water?
No, the industry uses scare tactics to undermine the public’s confidence in municipal water in order to grab a larger market share while at the same time bottling the very same municipal water they question.

6) Is bottled water a form of privatization?

So, before even examining the environmental issues, it is clear that private water does not meet OPSEU's standards.

Attack on the public and public services
- The United Church of Canada is urging its three million members across the country to avoid bottled water as a way of taking a personal stand against water privatization. "We're against the commodification, the privatization is another way to say it, of water anyway, anywhere. And bottled water that we see being sold in Canada is just an example of that.... water is a basic human right, not a commodity to be sold for profit."
- depletion of groundwater which is part of the public commons
- battles between local communities and multinationals have been growing including riots in Bolivia
- companies can draw up to 50,000 liters of water per day without any permits

Bottled Water Consumption
· Canadians consumed 1.9 billion liters of bottled water in 2005 and 2.1 billion liters in 2006
· Canadians spent $652.7 million on bottled water in 2005
· 25% of bottled water is filtered tap water
· Americans consumed 26 billion litres of bottled water in 2004.
· Worldwide consumption was 167.8 billion liters in 2005
· Every year the world spends an estimated $100 billion on extracting, altering, packaging, shipping and consuming bottled water
· “Evian” spelled backwards is “na├»ve”

Bottled Water Production
· Most municipal and provincial drinking water-related jobs are unionized. Most private water providers are not.
· A single water bottle uses about a quarter of its own volume in oil for production
· Every disposable water bottle is responsible for increased pollution and energy used its production and distribution
· The most commonly used plastic for making water bottles is polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is derived from crude oil.
· More than 17 million barrels of oil are used annually to extract, produce & package water bottles in the US (excluding transportation), enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a whole year.
· Over half a dozen significant air pollutants are released in bottle production
· 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide are released in the US in the production of bottled water
· CO2 is them released in the transportation of bottled water – from as far away as Fiji
· Bottle production requires at least twice as much water as the bottle can hold
· a lot of water is wasted in the bottling process

· Less than 1 in 3 disposable plastic bottles are recycled in Canada (and only 15% in the US)
· Canadians sent 65,000 tonnes of PET beverage containers, many of them water bottles, to landfill or incineration in 2002
· It takes up to 1,000 years for the plastic to disintegrate
· In 2005, 144 billion disposable containers were sent to were sent to landfills, incinerators or just littered in the US
  • 49 billion PET plastic (almost 2 million tons)
  • 54 billion aluminum cans
  • 30 billion glass bottles
· 18 million barrels of additional oil are needed to replace these un-recycled water bottles resulting in an estimated 800 thousand metric tons of carbon equivalent

Water quality

· Tap water is scrutinized, tested and regulated for contaminants and harmful substances to a much greater degree than bottled water, which falls under the Food and Drug Act.
· In 2007, William Shotyk, a Canadian scientist working at the University of Heidelberg, released a study of 132 brands of bottled water in PET bottles stored for six months, and found that significant levels of antimony, a toxic chemical used in the bottle's production, had leached into the water.
· there's empirical evidence that these plastic ingredients are now in the bodies of every citizen
· PET bottles cannot be refilled due to potential risk of leaching and bacterial growth
· Algae will build up if bottled water is left in sunlight in high heat.
· In 2004, Coca-Cola Co. recalled its entire Dasani line of bottled water from the British market after levels of bromate, a potentially harmful chemical, were found to exceed legal standards.
· A 1988 Health Canada study of bottled water kept at room temperature for 30 days showed a substantial increase in the bacterial count (Health Canada)

· The cost on bottled water can be hundreds or even thousands of times greater than the price of municipally-provided tap water
· Industry is working to get the public accustomed to paying whatever price the market will bear for bottled water as just another commodity. Just look at what's happening with food and oil these days.
· It’s bad for the environment, and it’s bad for the wallet.
· As the cost of oil rises, so will the cost of bottled water

Water coolers

There are several advantages in choosing plumbed in water rather than bottles:
  • No regular deliveries (environmentally friendly – reducing transport)
  • No problem storing bottles of water
  • No running out of water
  • No lifting of heavy bottles
  • No monthly invoices
  • No bacteria incubating in air space of bottles
  • Inner water containers in coolers need to be cleaned and disinfected every one-two months because the proper temperature and abundant nutrition in water provides a good environment for pathogens (Health Canada)
Something to think about next time you're thinking about purchasing a case of that "cheap" bottled water.


Anonymous said...

I agree that bottled water is very wasteful and I believe that citizens should not have to pay for a commodity. However, my water is infested with sulfur, calcium and iron. I realize that these elements are harmless, but they make my water undesirable and I'm not willing to spend thousands of dollars on a filtering system. I often feel that my hands are tied. If you have any soutions, some feedback would be much appreciated.

Gary Shaul said...

First, I'm not sure it would cost thousands. Why so much?

Second, there are cases where bottled water may be necessary. People should be comfortable with the water they drink.

Not sure if you're on a municipal system or a well?

alfer said...

In fact, water treatment systems can cost a few thousand dollars depending on wants and needs. For calcium (and magnesium)and iron which causes hardness and staining Ms. Perron would need a water softener with an iron filter while the sulfur can be eliminated with a carbon filter. Perhaps you were quoted several thousand dollars by a pushy salesperson which is highly unethical. These systems can be purchased for $50 - $80 per month and will more than pay for themselves in time. The benefits are real and many on top of the financial and environmental ones.

Rob MacKay

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