Sustainability Division • 315-443-9820
Summer is just around the corner. With the warmer weather, I have noticed many people walking around with single-serve plastic water bottles. This is a very common sight. What seems to be uncommon is people walking around with their own re-usable bottles.
Last month our division and a few student groups held blind water taste tests at a couple of events on campus. These taste tests were not to determine if you could identify the type of water, but which water you preferred the taste of. The categories were: bottled water, tap water and filtered tap water. Many of the people who tasted the water were very surprised that they chose the tap water or filtered tap water. At one event, 106 people out of 151 preferred SU's TAP or FILTERED TAP water over the bottled water. People shouldn’t be surprised our water tastes so good, since our water comes from Skaneateles Lake. According to the Syracuse Water Department, “The high quality of the water makes it possible to utilize the lake’s water without filtration. Skaneateles Lake is one of the few large system surface water supplies in the country that is approved as an unfiltered water supply.”
Here are some facts about the bottled-water industry that should make you ditch the single-serve water bottles and start drinking tap water!!
- Water bottle production uses 17 million barrels of oil a year, yes 17 million barrels a year!!!!! Hmmm, the last time the U.S. didn’t have to rely on imported oil was in 1970.
- A typical bottled-water bottle holds about 16.5 ounces; it takes three times that amount of water to make the bottle itself.
- According to National Geographic, Americans drink more bottled water than any other nation, purchasing a whopping 29 billion bottles every year.
- The recycling rate for those 29 billion bottles of water is low; only about 13 percent end up in the recycling stream. In 2005, that meant approximately 2 million tons of water bottles ended up in U.S. landfills, according to the National Resources Defense Council.
- Plastic bottles take a very, very long time to decompose. A plastic bottle will not decompose in your lifetime, or your children's lifetimes. In Syracuse if our bottles are not recycled they go to an incinerator which can release toxic byproducts, such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy metals.
Many brands of bottled water are just filtered tap water. But, not all bottled water is from a tap in the U.S. According to National Geographic’s Green Living in 2006, “Fiji shipped 18 million gallons of bottled water to California, releasing about 2,500 tons of transportation-related pollution. Western Europe's shipment of bottled water to New York City that year released 3,800 tons of pollution. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that the energy used to pump, process, transport and refrigerate bottled water is over 50 million barrels of oil annually.”
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Is drinking bottled water healthier than tap water?
The federal government does not mandate that bottled water be any safer than tap water. In a study done by the Environment Working Group, out of 173 bottled-water companies, 32% provided no information on water treatment and only 13% provided a “water quality report.”
The EPA requires municipal water suppliers to test their water several times a day. The great majority of the tap water in the country meets the EPA's drinking-water standards, which regulates the levels of nearly 90 different contaminates. For more information concerning water quality, visit www.EPA.gov.
Unlike bottled water, with tap water there are no false claims about where the water comes from. The EPA provides the sources of all public water supplies.
The energy saved from recycling ONE water bottle could light a 60-watt light bulb for six hours, according to earth911.com.
Did you see the 'water-bottle' people outside of Schine?
Pictured are two of the five figures constructed of plastic wrap, packing tape and empty single-serve plastic water bottles, displayed on the lawn between Schine Student Center and Newhouse April 23-24. The SU Sustainability Division created the display to highlight the facts behind bottled water and the bottled-water industry.