Unheard of only a generation ago, bottled water has become a ubiquitous part of the American experience. Many people keep one with them at all times, going through several per day. Drinking bottled water certainly is healthier for your body than soda or other sugary drinks, and it's definitely convenient, but habitually buying bottled water can hurt your wallet and the planet.
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The main selling point of bottled water is the convenience. It's comforting to have a ready supply of drinking water with you when you're in the car, hiking in the mountains, out for a run or anywhere that water is not easily accessible. Without bottled water, many people may turn to sugar-laden sodas and juices to quench an inconvenient thirst. Bottled water is a healthier alternative when it comes to staying hydrated on the go.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates the production of bottled water, so you can be sure the water in that bottle is clean and free of contaminants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulates your tap water the same way, but clean tap water is not always available. After natural disasters, water lines may be disrupted and water treatment plants may be temporarily offline, meaning that the water supply coming into your home may be contaminated or completely nonexistent. In these cases, bottled water can be a lifesaver.
Depending on the size of the bottle and the brand, bottled water varies dramatically in price. The one thing that is constant is that it always costs more than filling a glass at your sink. When you buy a bottle of water, the water itself only costs a few cents -- the rest of the money goes toward packaging, shipping, advertising and other administrative costs, with about 25 percent to 30 percent left over as profit for the manufacturer. The Natural Resources Defense Council says bottled water is more expensive than milk, wine or oil.
The biggest problem with bottled water is the waste. When the water's gone, the bottle remains. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation says that Americans used 31 billion bottles of water in 2006, and the bottles used in New York alone would reach the moon if they were stacked. Ninety percent of water bottles end up in the trash, wasting the energy and materials it took to make them, as well as landfill space and the resources necessary to make new bottles. Recycle your empty water bottles, and purchase a reusable water bottle to refill from the tap to save money and the environment.