One Born Every Minute

I remember the days when there was nothing to drink except the socialist government nanny-state fluid that came out of the tap. For us Providence residents, that’s from the Scituate Reservoir, where fish swim around and poop. Back then we didn’t have the modern luxury of water packed by friendly non-profit family businesses like Coca-Cola, kept in plastic bottles for months or years, and blessed by magical names and claims that this drink is far superior to ordinary H2O.

It gets better than that. Sometimes this water gains potency by being shipped from distant countries in shipping containers big enough to live in at who knows what carbon cost.

Even your humble correspondent, who is working all day while waiting for the MacArthur Genius Grant to show up in the mail, has it figured out. Since I don’t have time to write a book, I’ll link to this…

Peter Gleick, a freshwater expert, is the author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.

The growth of the bottled water industry is a story about twenty-first-century controversies and contradictions: poverty versus glitterati; perception versus reality; private gain versus public loss. Today people visit luxury water “bars” stocked with bottles of water shipped in from every corner of the world. Water “sommeliers” at fancy restaurants push premium bottled water to satisfy demand and boost profits. Airport travelers have no choice but to buy bottled water at exorbitant prices because their own personal water is considered a security risk. Celebrities tout their current favorite brands of bottled water to fans. People with too much money and too little sense pay $50 or more for plain water in a fancy glass bottle covered in fake gems, or for “premium” water supposedly bottled in some exotic place or treated with some magical process.

A rather scary chapter from the book involves a college president justifying the decision to build a sports stadium with no public water fountains, resulting in scores of fans getting sick from dehydration when the $3/bottle water at the concession stands ran out.

We actually have spring water sources right here in the state, but for rigorous testing and accountability you’re best off with what comes out of your faucet. I still shake my head that we have not only been sold on paying for something that is inferior to what we can get for free, but also persuaded to dismantle a public good so basic and necessary we could get to take it for granted– until it dries up.

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