MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews / 24 May) – Sometime last year, a colleague showed a photo of hundreds of empty bottles of what we commonly call “mineral water” littered on a street in the metropolis. Ironically, those bottles were thrown there by people who joined an Earth Day fun run. Not funny, really.
Such awful sight should make us reexamine the habit of patronizing bottled water. We think it’s trendy, cool. We are deceived by ads claiming that bottled water is safer and “healthier” compared to tap water, and the use of healthy, attractive endorsers by companies that sell this stuff. In other words, patronizing it is nothing more than wanting to be “in”. Companies know their psychology; consumers wish to partake of a product endorser’s identity.
But seldom do we realize that buying it only produces more and more trash and gives no actual health benefits. In the US alone, the number of empty plastic bottles each year can circle the equator at least 19 times. How many of these bottles, most of which are thrown away and not recycled, find their way into rivers and seas where they can endanger marine life?
I don’t have figures for the Philippines. Yet, judging by the number of stores that are selling bottled water it can be presumed that this industry must be reaping windfalls here. Even hotels have now imbibed the habit of labeling bottled water with the names of their establishments.
The net effect of a thriving bottled water business – and the so-called purified water business too – is that people have come to suspect the quality (read safety) of tap water supplied by the local water utilities. Perhaps you may not like the taste of your tap water compared to that of its bottled, nay, overpriced cousin. However, a taste which is not to your liking doesn’t necessarily mean that tap water is unsafe.
Think again. Local water systems are regulated by government. When we say regulations, we’re not just referring to the amount we pay per unit volume of consumption but also quality standards that make tap water safe for humans. On the other hand, how sure are we that bottled water business in general undergoes rigorous government safety regulations?
And there’s another downside to getting hooked to bottled or “purified” water: it cuts us off from the issue of obliging government to ensure access to safe and affordable water, potable water to be exact. By joining the bandwagon created by the commodification of water we are unknowingly handing over the control of this basic life-giving resource to the corporations.
In Bukidnon, for instance, plantations have diverted huge volumes of water from rivers away from traditional farms compounding the difficulties of ordinary farmers during the dry season. Let’s not add to the problem by allowing corporations to further hoard what should be part of the commons. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)