This column by Simon Gear first appeared in Khuluma magazine in August 2011
It isn’t that bottled water is inherently evil. You’re probably better off drinking that than something sugary, caffeinated and dyed bright green. But to sell it, companies have to neatly ignore the fact that drinking water is freely available just about everywhere. The whole thing is premised on the idea that there is something wrong with our tap water. And so perhaps their tap water, repackaged with a picture of a mountain stream on the front, might somehow be better for you.
There is also the sense that if the marketing companies win (because what is bottled water, if not the triumph of marketing over common sense?), then we may stop caring about our tap water. As it is, we have exceptional water in this country. Most municipalities are able to get it clean, fresh and delicious, straight into our homes. For almost nothing. My bill for water works out at a fifth of a cent per 500ml, excluding the first five and a half thousand litres I get for free. Admittedly, I don’t get a smart plastic bottle with that, but still. It’s the same stuff, excepting that the municipal water doesn’t taste faintly of plastic. And if we were to all switch to bottles, and that quality was allowed to slip, I doubt we’d ever get it back.
So the bottle guys have managed to get us equating price and quality:
“If the liquid the municipality hardly charges you for is any good, then why is it so damn cheap?? they seem to say. “You deserve only the best. Pure, clean and at a small premium of 400 000%.
Give them the boot. If you’re going to be away from a tap, carry your own classy hip flask with you. But don’t buy the bottled stuff. It’s unspeakably wasteful, ridiculously expensive and worst of all, they are banking on you and I being gullible fools.