Do drink the water!

A refreshing report from the Consumer Council for Water this week has praised the quality of British tap water and dismissed bottled water as a waste of money.

It has long been my view that bottled water is a con, or an expensive fashion accessory at best. Tap water in the UK is always perfectly safe to drink. It has to be, that’s the law. People pay their water bills, then that’s it, an endless supply of drinking water on tap. The Consumer Council says tap water costs about 0.1 pence per litre, compared to £1 for bottled water. So tap water is 1000 times more expensive.

So why do so many people insist on only drinking water bought in plastic bottles? Some people think that tap water is harmfull, which means they are simply misinformed. Others claim not to like the taste. That’s a matter of preference (I prefer taste of tap water) but there many methods of filtering water if they really insist on it. Then I suspect the issue becomes one of convenience – filtering water actually requires some effort. The hard water, which many people claim to like, possibly helps to prevent heart disease.

One unfortunate consequence is the effect on foreign visitors. In their home countries, tap water may well not be safe to drink, so bottled water is a necessity. However, this bottled water is usually much more reasonably priced than in the UK. These visitors arrive in the UK, see so many of the natives buying their bottles, so feel they have to do the same. They might even ask, “Is tap water safe?” To which they are often misinformed, “No it isn’t.” The UK already has a reputation as an expensive country, so having people pay a premium for water will ultimately not be good for the tourist industry.

Some brands of bottled water carry with them a certain image, a lifestyle of which people want to be a part. As usual, those foolish enough to follow fashion burn a hole in their pockets, although it has to be said that even the most exclusive designer clothes don’t normally cost 1000 times more than the unbranded equivalent. All I can suggest is, buy one bottle, then re-fill it from the tap. One of the leading brands actually prints on the label, “This bottle is intended for the exclusive use of (brandname) natural mineral water.” In other words, don’t re-fill it. It wouldn’t surprise me if in America it’s a criminal offence to do so under some draconian trademark law. Anyway, I’ll leave you to look out for which brand it is!

Buying water in a bottle is also bad for the environment. Think of all the energy that goes into making the bottles, into the bottling plant, into transporting the water to the shop, into transporting the bottle home from the shop.

Bottled water isn’t better for you. In fact, sometimes it can be harmful. In 2004, Coca-Cola attempted to launch their Dasani branded water in the UK. It soon emerged that they were taking tap water, filtering it, then adding some chemicals to improve the taste. This resulted in ridicule in the press, particularly as it resembled a scheme thought up by crafty east London market trader Del Trotter in the TV series Only Fools and Horses. Shortly after the launch, the authorities discovered that one of the additives was potentially carcinogenic. The Dasani brand was subsequently withdrawn from sale in Europe.

So the message is simply, when in the UK, do drink the water! The tap water, that is. Ignore people who say it isn’t safe, try filtering it if you don’t like the taste. But please don’t waste money by buying all your drinking water in bottles.

2 responses to “Do drink the water!”

  1. Amy

    someone drinks milk instead of water, is it better for health?

  2. samanatha

    thank you so much for your help. me and my mum are diabetic and weve been drinking bottled water all this time thinking that we were gonna get better but in fact it made us worse so weve started drinking tap water after reading this article and to tell you the truth me and my mum are better off. we are getting better everyday it just goes to show dont listen to rumorse theyre just rumorse.

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