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Bottled Water and Refilling Stations: Hazards to the Environment....What's the best alternative?
In most parts of the world, drinking water straight from the tap puts one at risk. In many cities, the underground water systems are 50 to 100 years old. It often happens that due to the wear and tear, only half of the water from these old pipes reach the end-users. In addition, these old pipes, which are often made of iron, are prone to rust. However, while there is a need to replace the old systems, it would be too expensive to do so. Note that waste water often runs parallel with the tap water supply and under certain conditions, it can contaminate the tap water due to leakage. While the water from your tap is normally chlorinated, the chlorine level is critical. Too much chlorine is unhealthy since its bi-products can cause cancer. Too little chlorine allows microorganisms to multiply in the water, causing stomach disease outbreaks even the feared cholera, typhoid fever and amoebiasis. Some milder water related ailments like diarrhea and tummy aches, might have been already experienced by you. Unclean tap water and its dire consequences cause families and society unnecessary heartaches and enormous economical losses.
As a result, the bottled water industry is booming.
The global consumption of bottled water reached 154 billion liters (41 billion gallons) in 2004, up 57 percent from the 98 billion liters consumed five years earlier. Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing—producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy. Although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can cost up to 10,000 times more. At as much as $2.50 per liter ($10 per gallon), bottled water costs more than gasoline.
Water sold in countries for consumption can come in cans, laminated boxes and even plastic bags. However, bottled water is most commonly sold in glass or disposable plastic bottles. Bottled water also comes in various sizes from single servings to large containers holding up to 19 liters.
Furthermore, in many Asian countries, water refilling stations have proliferated in every corner of the city. Unknown to many, all these methods negatively impact our environment.
Dr. Biksham Gijja, head of Freshwater Program of the World Wide Fund International, estimates that there are 1.5 million tons of plastics needed for the production of water bottles. He warns that toxic chemicals are released during their manufacture and later on in their disposal. This will contribute to environmental pollution and climate change. Already, water bottles are left anywhere and these will likely end up in waterways and drainage systems. This will cause clogging and flooding. In addition, bottled water and refilling stations suggests numerous deep well diggings which may not be regulated by any government authority. Usually the regulation focuses on the finished product not on the source of raw material. There are also a considerable number of households not serviced by public water utilities which built their own deep wells. These drillings and water withdrawals if left unabated may lead to environmental problems.*
* Taken from an industry brief, published by the Manila-based University of Asia & the Pacific, Center for Food & Agribusiness in the February 2003 issue of the Food & Agribusiness Monitor, primarily for a Philippine audience. ReyesU. Senen, Senior Management Specialist, Center for Food and Agri Business, University of Asia and the Pacific.