Bottled water is among the most popular beverages in the world, even though many of its largest consumers have access to clean drinking water. Buying bottled water provides some significant benefits over the alternatives, but some argue using bottled water is largely unnecessary and can have undesirable effects.
One of the primary advantages of bottled water is the convenience of built-in portability. While tap water may be readily available in urban areas, it can be more difficult to come by in the country or when while hiking, making bottled water a great way to store a large quantity of water in manageable portions. The fact that bottles can be quickly resealed is another advantage that allows for easy mixing of bottled water with powdered flavors and nutritional supplements. Bottles can be stored inside other containers such as backpacks or held in the hand, which can be an important advantage for athletes and students who may not always be able to access tap water the moment they want it.
The subject of bottled water purity and safety benefits versus that of tap water is a common source of debate. In developed countries, there are often strict regulations on tap water quality, and the contaminants in tap water might be equal to, or even less than, those in bottled water. The main advantage of bottled water in terms of safety is in less regulated regions or underdeveloped countries where tap water may contain high levels of contaminants.
Perhaps the most clear-cut drawback of bottled water use is that it creates waste. While empty water bottles can be recycled or reused for other purposes, millions of bottles of water are used around the world each year, and even recycling used bottles requires energy. Shipping bottled water also requires trucks that burn fossil fuels, which increases CO2 emissions.
Another benefit of bottled water is for storage for future use. While tap water is normally available on demand, it might not be accessible in an emergency situation. During Hurricane Katrina, flood waters were so high that taps were submerged, and the water system in some areas was damaged and contaminated.
From an economic standpoint for the average consumer, buying bottled water is not cost-effective. Consuming tap water is far cheaper--free if consumed in a public location. Bottled water is perhaps best used sparingly in situations where clean tap water may not be readily available.
- Photo Credit water bottle image by Radu Razvan from Fotolia.com
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