Tuesday, August 14, 2007

In Praise of Philadelphia’s Delicious Tap Water, and Its Totally Negligible Carbon Footprint

the consequence of hyperhydration

New York City has a new campaign, NYC Water — Get Your Fill, aimed at getting New Yorkers to buy less bottled water and, to instead, fill their water bottles with good old city tap water. Tap water? Yes tap water.

Campaign materials promote tap water as “cool, healthy, zero calories, zero sugar, clean, and good on the go.”

Why spend money on such a campaign? Well, for starters:
New York's water is the envy of municipalities everywhere. It is one of just five major American systems whose water is so good it needs little or no filtration, saving energy and chemicals. (The others are Boston, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle.)

The system is self-sustaining from rainwater stored in reservoirs. Gravity takes it downhill to the city, where pumps are unnecessary in all but a few neighborhoods.

New York water is quite pure, requiring little chlorine, and low in minerals, giving it a clean taste.
And then:
Compare that with a bottle of Evian from France or a bottle of Figi from the Pacific islands.

To get to a store shelf in Chicago, for instance, a bottle of water from France must first travel more than 5,000 miles on ships and in trucks. And because water is heavy, transporting it requires a lot of fuel.

ABC News crunched the numbers — taking into account mileage and fuel requirements — and found that even before you drink that one-liter (or a 33.8 ounce) bottle of French water in Chicago, you've already consumed roughly 2 ounces of oil. And that doesn't include the oil used to make the plastic.
The point is that despite the fact that “four out of five plastic water bottles end up in landfills,” the brunt of environmental impact occurs before you even open it — “more than 90 percent of the environmental impacts from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it.

So that brings us to Philadelphia, where the tap water just recently won an Honorable Mention in a national taste test of municipal water sources, besting 78 other locales.

That’s pretty impressive.

Meanwhile, if you choose to get your recommended eight glasses a day from bottled water, you could spend up to $1,400 annually. The same amount of tap water would cost about 49 cents.
So, obviously, it makes sense economically.

And, basically, we think we all should be drinking a lot more tap water and a lot less bottled water. And we’re going to look toward Philadelphia restaurants to help push the envelope/trend.

(Actually, maybe Mayor Street is in the mood for one more ban before he's done…)

tap water served at restaurants
DON’T bother asking for Fiji, San Pellegrino or any other designer water at either Incanto, a restaurant that opened in San Francisco in 2002, or at Poggio, which opened in Sausalito, Calif., two years later.

All their water comes out of the tap. It’s filtered before it reaches the table, but it’s from the public water system, just the same.


These two Bay Area restaurants were pretty much alone in kicking the bottle habit until Alice Waters, the godmother of things organic, sustainable and local, banned bottled still water at Chez Panisse in Berkeley last year and started serving only house-made sparkling water this year. Then the press took notice. Now other California restaurants, like Nopa in San Francisco, are following suit. Even an ice cream shop — Ici, in Berkeley — has jumped on the non-bottled-water wagon.

And now, with a little push from Ms. Waters, an important New York City restaurant is coming on board.
What’s up Osteria? Water Works? You guys want to dance?
Dr. Gina Solomon, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council, the environmental advocacy group, said there is no reason to believe that bottled water is safer than tap water, though there can be problems with either. The public water supply is much more stringently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency than bottled water is by the Food and Drug Administration. The E.P.A. requires multiple daily tests for bacteria, for example, with the results available to the public; the F.D.A. requires weekly testing, which does not have to be reported to the agency, to the states or to the public.

“The rationale for buying bottled water is a fantasy that has a destructive downside,” Dr. Solomon said. “These companies are marketing an illusion of environmental purity.”

Her organization has calculated how much carbon dioxide — a major greenhouse gas — is emitted during the transportation of bottled water imported from France and Italy, the two largest exporters to the United States, and Fiji water, which travels much farther. Together they account for 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent, Dr. Solomon said, of the yearly emissions from 700 cars on the road. She called that “a significant contribution to global warming, and fundamentally an unnecessary one.”
bottled water's enormous carbon footprint

Tap water, folks
it's the nectar of the gods.

A Battle Between the Bottle and Faucet [New York Times]
In Praise of Tap Water [New York Times]
Fighting the Tide, a Few Restaurants Tilt to Tap Water [New York Times]
The Unintended Consequences of Hyperhydration [New York Times]
Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful [New York Times]
Ditching Bottled Water to Go Green [ABC News]
The Nectar of the Gods [Philadelphia Daily News]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

If you've ever been to the interpretive center at the Water Works, they have free bottled "Philly Tap" water. The whole interpretive center is worth a look if you've never been.