Maybe I’m not the right person to bring this message as I drink very little in the way of fluids each day, at least compared to my students who will, I am sure, have to be surgically removed from their water bottles. Of course I’ve also had kidney stones twice, so I’m not suggesting anyone do as I do. How much you should drink is unknown. The 64 oz. recommendation everyone has heard is probably way too high and has no basis in science. But whether it’s 40 oz. or 50 oz. or something else I don’t know and neither does anyone else. My 30 oz. is probably too low.
But I would also urge you to think twice about buying bottled water, if only for your pocket book’s sake. Bottled water, gallon for gallon, is more expensive than gasoline. Then there’s the health aspect:
Bottled water may look and taste pure enough, but the whole idea stinks. For a start, bottled water is indistinguishable from tap water. Put five bottled waters up against tap water in a blind tasting and see if you can tell the difference. L.A. tap water came out on top in a 2006 blind tasting, beating water from New York and Seattle, among others. One judge called L.A.’s water “exceptional. Like a bottled water.”
In many cases, bottled water is actually derived from tap water and filtered — which is why PepsiCo has just agreed to add the words “public water source” to the label of its Aquafina water. But water from glacial springs is not inherently superior. Worse, shipping it around causes unnecessary environmental damage. Bottled water is often refrigerated before sale, wasting even more energy. Then there are the millions of plastic bottles, many of which end up in landfills.
Surely bottled water is purer and safer? Actually, no. The regulations governing the quality of public water supplies are far stricter than those governing bottled-water plants. True, there are sometimes contamination problems with tap water, but the same is true of bottled water.
The industry responds that it is not selling water; it is selling “portable hydration.” But filling a bottle from the tap works just as well. The industry also likes to point out that bottled water is a healthy, calorie-free alternative to sugary soda drinks. The same goes for tap water. (Tom Standage, LA Times)
The blowback against this highly successful branding and marketing strategy isn’t new, but it is picking up steam. The best resource I know of on the subject is the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 1999 report, Bottled Water: Pure Drink or Pure Hype?: While bottled water marketing conveys images of purity, inadequate regulations offer no assurance (long title but very informative report). If you just want the gist, they have a good FAQ. If you want to know the differences in the way tap water is regulated by the EPA and bottled water is regulated by the FDA you’ll find a good summary table here. What you see immediately is that tap water is much more tightly regulated than bottled water.
Then there’s the newly raised issue of bisphenol A in the plastic water bottles:
In an unusual effort targeting a single chemical, several dozen scientists on Thursday issued a strongly worded consensus statement warning that an estrogen-like compound in plastic is likely to be causing an array of serious reproductive disorders in people.
The compound, bisphenol A or BPA, is one of the highest-volume chemicals in the world and has found its way into the bodies of most human beings.
Used to make hard plastic, BPA can seep from beverage containers and other materials. It is used in all polycarbonate plastic baby bottles, as well as other rigid plastic items, including large water cooler containers, sports bottles and microwave oven dishes, along with canned food liners and some dental sealants for children.
The scientists — including four from federal health agencies — reviewed about 700 studies before concluding that people are exposed to levels of the chemical exceeding those that harm lab animals. Infants and fetuses are most vulnerable, they said.
No studies have been conducted looking for effects in people, and one goal of the scientists who signed the statement is to generate human research.
Jerrold Heindel, a scientist with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences who organized a meeting last fall to begin drafting the statement, said even though there have been no human studies of BPA, there is now so much animal data that the 38 experts believe that potential human damage is likely. More than 150 studies have found health effects in animals exposed to low doses. (Marla Cone, LA Times)
So get yourself a non-polycarbonate water bottle and fill it with tap water. And drink more of it than I drink. Kidney stones are no fun.