October 2, 2014

Beyond the Bottle: The True Cost of Paying for Water. ~ Jilian Ryan

Keoni Cabral/Flickr Creative Commons

I was anxious.

I quickly decided which items to remove from my grocery bill so that I’d have enough money to pay. I stared at the total on the screen.

“Can you take the bottled water off?”

I stood embarrassed as the cashier returned several large glass bottles of carbonated mineral water.

I never bought water after that. Not because I was traumatized from the embarrassment. Not that. It’s because I realized I was budgeting to buy water.

You know, the stuff that runs from the tap? The free stuff.

But I knew too much about tap water.

There are multitudes of bottled water brands, products and water filtration systems to address the problem of impure tap water.

One example is reverse osmosis filtration systems. Their manufacturers and marketers claim the systems will remove various impurities.

One day, I decided to do some research and Googled, “reverse osmosis water filtration systems,” to learn how they work. The first unpaid search result claimed that their system removes:

  • viruses
  • bacteria
  • pyrogens
  • asbestos
  • pesticides
  • hydrocarbons
  • radioactive contaminants
  • turbidity
  • colloidal matter
  • chlorine
  • detergents
  • industrial waste
  • dissolved solids; sodium, calcium, magnesium, sulfates, and cadmium

Wait, what?

The more I read, the angrier I became.

Suddenly, I was reminded that the most obvious and disturbing substances in our water shouldn’t be there in the first place! Angry questions filled my head.

Why is buying a filtration system the answer to removing industrial waste from our water?

Shouldn’t we just, like, not allow pesticides and radioactivity into our water?

Asking these questions made me I realize that I had been more comfortable with the idea of buying products than with voting or making a lifestyle change. It was sad, but true.

More outrage set in. More questions came.

Why, exactly, do we want to remove something like calcium from our water? Don’t we pay extra money for chemical engineers to add calcium (a form that is not actually usable by our bodies) to our milk and other foods?

I have a magnesium deficiency, but I could be getting a daily dose from my water, is that right?

I did more research and found that these minerals are removed to preserve plumbing and enhance the effectiveness of soap. Seeking the facts made me realize that our modern conveniences place hefty costs on both our bodies and our environment.

More realizations sank in.

I thought about how lucky I’d been to afford fancy bottled water. I imagined what I sounded like.

“Oh, you can’t afford pH-balanced, mineral-enhanced water? It’s too bad that normal tap water is void of beneficial minerals and has health-damaging contaminants. Good thing I have enough money to avoid that inconvenience. Vote? Ugh, that’s a lot to ask. I’m too busy and tired from making money to pay attention to clean water initiatives.”

Then I take a satisfied sip from my Dr. Oz-endorsed beverage, “Ah!”

It finally hit me––I was encouraging companies to make products to be purchased by those privileged enough to buy them.

This, ultimately, makes it harder for the general population to thrive and have access to the essentials.

My new mantra: Don’t contribute to America’s class divide by buying specialty water!

Plus, bottles and filters create waste. Both are made in factories that produce waste. Then, more waste is created when they’re thrown away. I recycle. (Go me!)

But, I also realized that a lot of time and resources go into recycling something. I’ve slowly gotten into the habit of filling reusable bottles, but old habits die hard.

It’s funny. I thought I was being good to my body by buying water. And maybe I was, but it was at the expense of others and the environment.

I was a believer in individualism, a blind contributor to consumerism, and I was completely out of touch with what it was like to worry about affording good food and water. I didn’t ask the right questions and I didn’t put myself in others’ shoes.

Water is the basis of all life.

How did my view of its value become so tainted?

I now pledge to seek the larger truth. To no longer be led blindly by my wallet or by clever marketing. To stand up for myself and those who can’t be heard.

It starts with water. It starts with me.

Will you join me?



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Apprentice Editor: Brandie Smith/Editor: Travis May

Photo: Liveoncelivewild.com

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