Environmentalists are deeply concerned that most consumers ignore all the problems with bottled water. Many people take on board the concept that the human body requires a certain amount of water in order to function healthily. Yet they don’t seem to see that drinking bottled water places so much pressure on the environment.

Health experts don’t seem to agree on just how much water we should drink a day. However, whatever the number of litres an individual decides on, for the sake of the planet most of that water should come from our taps.

South Africans have always prided ourselves on the quality of our tap water. Aging water infrastructure and mismanagement of resources has cast doubt on the purity. There are ways that we can check on the purity of the water in our own areas. The first is on the department of water’s website, where there is information on sources of water throughout the country. To find out about your area click here.

There is also the Blue and Green Drop report based on tests conducted by Afriforum. This lists towns in each province and indicates the cleanliness of its water. To follow up on this click here.

In fact very few areas have been shown to have impure water.

The Problems

The problems with bottled water arise out of the high input of materials that is needed to provide it, the pollution caused by the discarded bottles and the possible health risks.

bottled water problems
Plastic bottles are environmentally damaging.

Bottled water bottles in South Africa can be made from glass or PET. Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is an oil-based product. Where possible, consumers should boycott products that are packaged in non-recyclable materials. Both glass and PET are recyclable, yet we are constantly bombarded with images of the number of bottles that litter our beaches, rivers and public spaces. Plastic bottles take centuries to decompose. We really need to change our behaviour on this score.

The extraction of raw materials needed to make bottles has great implications for the natural environment. A large amount of energy is expended in the transportation of bottled of water. This contributes to carbon emissions which further place pressure on the health of Mother Earth.

According to the South African National Bottled Water Association, bottled water bottles do not contain BPA and therefore cannot leach BPA into the water they contain. The idea that water that comes from a bottle that has been left in a hot vehicle is dangerous has also been disproved.

However, other chemicals and metals which may be found in bottled water forms the subject of ongoing research.

There are monetary implications too. If you have access to tap water, it is much cheaper than buying water.

The great irony about bottled water is that in some cases, unscrupulous manufacturers are simply bottling tap water and selling it as a “Gift from Nature”.

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