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Water, Water Everywhere

by Stephen Lautens


April 4, 2003

A picture was published recently of US President George W. Bush at an official function. What struck me was that he was photographed drinking water straight from a plastic bottle. My first thought was couldn’t someone get the leader of the semi-free world a glass?

I don’t want anyone to think I’m a snob. I’ve drunk from lawn hoses, sprinklers, faucets, cans, bottles and even once from an old shoe. But at none of these times was I giving a press conference with the rest of the world hanging on my every word.

I also don’t want anyone thinking I’m just picking on Dubya, since we all have more important things to worry about than whether plastic touches his lips.

It’s actually the whole bottled water thing that has me perplexed. Over the past few years, the plastic bottle of water has become the official accessory for life on the go. They’re hung from belts, clutched in hands, shoved in backpacks, and never more than a few inches away from our lips.

You can’t go to a twenty minute meeting without everyone arriving packing bottled water. At every stop light, drivers reach down for a slug of the old H20. People go to the movies and pay three bucks for a little bottle of water to gargle while watching the latest Adam Sandler masterpiece, even though there’s a perfectly good drinking fountain in the lobby.

When exactly did we become so thirsty? You’d think we’re all off on an expedition to cross the Gobi Desert the way we carry our little jugs of water with us wherever we go.

As a kid in my family we were given two choices - a glass of tap water or going thirsty.

I can understand how athletes need to drink water all the time, but most of us aren’t doing anything more strenuous than going to the mini-mart or picking the kids up from piano lessons. Doctors say the human body can survive up to three days without water, unless of course you’re heading down to the mall to try on shoes.

I’ve personally always thought bottled water was a bit of a crock, unless there is some sort of local civil emergency or there’s only light beer left in the fridge. It turns out I may have been right.

In spite of labels that show frosty glaciers, waterfalls or babbling brooks, a quarter of all the bottled water sold in the US actually comes from municipal sources. That’s right - it comes from the same place the rest of us get our water when we turn on the tap. Of course it gets "triple filtered", "ionized" and otherwise boosted with watery goodness on its way to the grocery store shelf, but it starts its life as plain old municipal water.

And I’m not talking about Big Bob’s Bottled Water here. Coke's Dasani and Pepsi's Aquafina - the two top selling brands in North America - both come from municipal sources. So much for my friends who look at me like I’m a hick when I turn down their designer water in favour of a glass straight from the tap. That’s all I really need, and I can wait to get home to have one.

Unless of course they ever capture the tangy taste of water drunk out of a garden hose on a really hot day. I might even buy a bottle of that myself.

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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