Here’s the scenario: Fifty-year old Jane recently adopted a healthy diet and regular exercise routine. She briskly walks around the local park daily. Three times a week she jogs to the local gym, where she does yoga and a small work out. She ends up in their little cafeteria where she buys a healthy muffin and a bottled water, confident she is doing the right thing in avoiding the pops and high-sugar juices.
Great for Jane.
There’s only one thing wrong with her selection: in choosing to buy bottled water, she is implying a choice against tap water. In doing that, she is supporting the implication that water is a commodity to buy and sell, rather than a national heritage and the right of all citizens of this planet—with associated individual, national and global responsibility to keep clean and sustain for our future generations and planet’s well being.
“Water is a public trust,” says Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water Issues to the President of the United Nations. “This means that no one owns water in a jurisdiction but rather that it belongs to a nation’s citizens, the ecosystem and the future.” To buy bottled water is literally to buy into a paradigm that accepts that water is not free but can be bought and sold. It makes water a commodity.
Water is in actuality a natural right for all living things on this planet, humans, plants and wildlife. Water is necessary to all life. Without water all life dies. All life has the right to clean drinking water, and to use it wisely. No one should own it or abuse it.
Here are additional reasons why bottled water should be avoided:
- The bottles litter our environment: The billions of plastic containers that hold water are littering our landfills for hundreds of years. Contrary to popular belief, only 35% of plastic water bottles are recycled. The rest end up in our landfills.
- They overuse and deplete key watersheds: Coke, Pepsi, Neslé and others “mine” aquifers of community watersheds for profit and often without regard for local needs. Nestlé, for example, is currently taking 3.6 million litres of groundwater per day in Aberfoyle, Ontario, depleting the nearby community at Mill Creek (Council of Canadians).
- They contribute to climate change: The production and transportation of bottled water produce greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change.
- It’s not as good for you: Also contrary to popular belief, water kept in plastic bottles may be less clean, may accumulate plastic residue and is less regulated than public water.
There is a grassroots movement to “unbottle” water in Canada and other parts of the world. City councils, school boards, teachers and private business owners are taking bottled water out of their buildings. “Unbottling it” is about far more than making a choice against bottled water; “It’s about reclaiming public water, keeping it clean, recognizing it as a public trust, not a commodity,” says Stuart Trew in the Spring 2009 issue of Canadian Perspectives, the magazine of The Council of Canadians.
I was happy to hear that my son’s high school recently adopted “unbottling water”. The alternative is unacceptable.
Sticking a water vending machine next to the water fountain tells our children—who are our future—that we don’t trust our public water (despite the fact that public water is cleaner and better regulated than bottled water—Council of Canadians). “It says we’re not willing to invest in our public water systems, which can only lead people to think it is normal to pay for water, not to expect their society to manage it and keep it clean for current and future generations” (Stuart Trew, Canadian Perspectives) and the future of our planet.
My upcoming book on water entitled Water Is…(due in Spring 2016) brings my over twenty-years experience as an aquatic ecologist to explore what water means to each of us.
Nina Munteanu is an ecologist, limnologist and internationally published author of award-nominated speculative novels, short stories and non-fiction. She is co-editor of Europa SF and currently teaches writing courses at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for the latest on her books.