Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Right to Drink Water

Here’s the scenario: Fifty-year old Jane recently adopted a healthy diet and regular exercise routine. She briskly walks around the local park daily. Three times a week she jogs to the local gym, where she does yoga and a small work out. She ends up in their little cafeteria where she buys a healthy muffin and a bottled water, confident she is doing the right thing in avoiding the pops and high-sugar juices.

Great for Jane. There’s only one thing wrong with her selection: in choosing to buy bottled water, she is implying a choice against tap water. In doing that, she is supporting the implication that water is a commodity to buy and sell, rather than a national heritage and the right of all citizens of this planet—with associated individual, national and global responsibility to keep clean and sustain for our future generations and planet’s well being.

“Water is a public trust,” says Maude Barlow, Senior Advisor on Water Issues to the President of the United Nations. “This means that no one owns water in a jurisdiction but rather that it belongs to a nation’s citizens, the ecosystem and the future.”

To buy bottled water is literally to buy into a paradigm that accepts that water is not free but can be bought and sold. It makes water a commodity.
Water is in actuality a natural right for all living things on this planet, humans, plants and wildlife. Water is necessary to all life. Without water all life dies. All life has the right to clean drinking water, and to use it wisely. No one should own it or abuse it.

Here are additional reasons why bottled water should be avoided:

• The bottles litter our environment: The billions of plastic containers that hold water are littering our landfills for hundreds of years. Contrary to popular belief, only 35% of plastic water bottles are recycled. The rest end up in our landfills.

• They overuse and deplete key watersheds: Coke, Pepsi, Neslé and others “mine” aquifers of community watersheds for profit and often without regard for local needs. Nestlé, for example, is currently taking 3.6 million litres of groundwater per day in Aberfoyle, Ontario, depleting the nearby community at Mill Creek (Council of Canadians).

• They contribute to climate change: The production and transportation of bottled water produce greenhouse gas emissions that exacerbate climate change.

• It’s not as good for you: Also contrary to popular belief, water kept in plastic bottles may be less clean, may accumulate plastic residue and is less regulated than public water.

There is a grassroots movement to “unbottle” water in Canada and other parts of the world. City councils, school boards, teachers and private business owners are taking bottled water out of their buildings. “Unbottling it” is about far more than making a choice against bottled water; “It’s about reclaiming public water, keeping it clean, recognizing it as a public trust, not a commodity,” says Stuart Trew in the Spring 2009 issue of Canadian Perspectives, the magazine of The Council of Canadians.

I was happy to hear that my son’s high school recently adopted “unbottling water”. The alternative is unacceptable. Sticking a water vending machine next to the water fountain tells our children—who are our future—that we don’t trust our public water (despite the fact that public water is cleaner and better regulated than bottled water—Council of Canadians). “It says we’re not willing to invest in our public water systems, which can only lead people to think it is normal to pay for water, not to expect their society to manage it and keep it clean for current and future generations” (Stuart Trew, Canadian Perspectives) and the future of our planet.
I use a container and fill it with tap water. That simple.
1. Toulouse examines what's available in the hospital vending machine
2. pristine creek in Nova Scotia
3. Toulouse poses with a Nestle "eco-friendly" water bottle

Nina Munteanu is an ecologist and internationally published author of novels, short stories and essays. She coaches writers and teaches writing at George Brown College and the University of Toronto. For more about Nina’s coaching & workshops visit www.ninamunteanu.me. Visit www.ninamunteanu.ca for more about her writing.


Anonymous said...

Good Post Nina.

Where I work, they took out the bottled water and put in water stations - Water fountains with a side spout that you can use to fill a water bottle.

The City of Vancouver is working towards Un-Bottling in their municipal facilities.

The 2010 Olympic venues in Vancouver didn't sell bottled water.

While water is a National Trust as you said, in the end it is not free.

Communities pay heavely for water infrastructure. Has been that way for a long time. The Romans mastered it.

Un-Bottle - Don't pay twice!


Dalifan said...

Great post Nina!

I agree, bottled water is definitely something that shouldn't be there in place of making water freely available. Just the increase in the numbers of plastic bottles produced and used is scary!


SF Girl said...

Thanks, Limburger and Teresa. I didn't know for sure if the Olympics supported bottled or unbottled water and I'm glad to hear they did not. YAY Canada!

And, yes, it IS scary.

And, yes, Limburger, nothing in life is really free (even freedom, the greatest paradox). As an ecologist, I know this only too well... everything has a cost; it just depends on how you define cost and benefit...who or what pays and HOW they pay and what we are willing to pay... Just like the cost for freedom is responsibility and vigilance.

Jean-Luc Picard said...

I agree. Bottled water is not something I ever buy, except in a country where the regular water is not safe to drink.

SF Girl said...

Yea, I recall finding that phenomenon in Europe when I was first there; it seemed that EVERY restaurant offered ONLY bottled water...

SF Girl said...

Yeah.... I remember when I first went to Europe I found that most restaurants served ONLY bottled water... Now Canadian restaurants are doing it...

Steph said...

In Canada we're pretty blessed to have an abundance of relatively clean water. Unfortunately the same can't be said for the rest of north america or the world. I think we Canadians have created an environment that makes this sort of Monopolizing Corporate behavior run rampant.

I remember when I saw my first bottle of water and it made me laugh. I guess I figured it was just some freaky European thing. You can't have tap water that runs carbonated. For some reason the powers that be have been able to trick us into thinking that this is the only available option, that taps are poison.

The other side of the monopoly farce is that they have allowed all of our water sources to be chlorinated. This is the odd taste that we sometimes have in our taps. There are several alternatives that wouldn't leave a flavor residue. Why aren't we pursuing those options?

When water is more expensive than gasoline we have to realign our priorities. How can this be? What will it take to facilitate a change back to the way it should be? Who is going to speak up to the lawmakers and corporate heads?

Sorry for ranting, my voice is parched. I'll be over at the tap.


SF Girl said...

Good rant though, Steph... And much appreciated. Water -- it's quality and its availability -- is a growing issue, even in Canada, where it is so plentiful.

You asked who is going to speak up to the lawmakers and corporate heads? Well, frankly YOU are... hehe... well we ALL are... This is a citizen right and therefore a citizen responsibility. The unbottling program is one way... there are many other initiatives that can help. Educating the public is another major one... I put the bottled water issue into a poll and up to one third of people think that there is nothing wrong with drinking bottled water. The issues aren't clear or known. So EDUCATION is key...

You're a film-maker, Steph... I'd LOVE to do a film with you on WATER that could be given to the high schools... Maybe we should look at it... What do you think?...

Steph said...

I like the idea. We'll have to talk.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of alternative methods for water purification. The Water District for the Metro Vancouver area has recently put a new filtration / purification plant into service. Check out the following site: Seymour Capilano Water Utility Projects

The water from this source is so low in particulates that it appears blue (absorbs more red light). The effect is most noticable in a white tub.

Yay Vancouver!

From the Left Coast,


Antônio Araújo said...

Amazing work... God bless you!

Sandy said...

My husband and I have a business called Impressive Water. We are dedicated to getting people to stop the bottled water madness!!! An alternative to bottled water -- and an extremely healthy choice -- is to use Enagic's water ionizer, which creates alkaline water through an electrolysis process (much, much more than a filter). The machine hooks to your tap, and it lasts 15 years, with an average cost of 73 cents per day. Seventy three cents per day to serve a multitude of people water? I love it! Watch them get healthy. Check out the videos at www.impressivewater.com. We'd love to talk to anyone who wants to listen.

SF Girl said...

Blue water, eh?... What a concept! LOL! Way to go, Vancouver!

Sandy, I will check it out. Thanks for giving my readers a link too. :)


Steph said...

Sandy. It sounds like your company could be used in countries where their water sources are already contaminated. I appreciate that this is your livelyhood but it our state's obligation to provide us all with adequate drinking water.

I just can't bring myself to support the privatization and corporatization of water security. I can hear it now, people all over our nation saying "You socialist! How dare you spurn the growth of private industry!" Sorry but I don't buy it, not for this.

If we open the doors wider on the privatization of water, we're only asking for imposed external and unregulated infringements to our democratic rights: CLEAN DRINKING WATER.

Just think of it this way... should the poor of our country not be allowed to drink? I think not. Should they, as they have in several Canadian cities, get sick from drinking tap water? No.

I'm sure we can agree that this issue is far from solved...

SF Girl said...

You're right, Steph... this is an issue that needs to be discussed by EVERYONE...EVERYWHERE...

The journal Nature says that: "More than one billion people in the world lack access to clean water, and things are getting worse. Over the next two decades, the average supply of water per person will drop by a third, possibly condemning millions of people to an avoidable premature death."

Access to, stewardship of, and ensurance of clean accessable water to all life is one of the most important issues we face today.

Connected to the issue of water (and life by implication)is the struggle for power and domination, health, social justice, equality, and liberty.

Water is the currency that can bind us in a true global comunity... we'll see...

SF Girl said...

p.s. FYI...A recent Canadian study presented to the American Society of Microbiology in San Diego revealed alarming levels of bacteria in bottled water in Canada.

Nina Munteanu said...

p.s. if you MUST still buy and drink bottled water, then at least be discerning about which company's water you buy. Companies like Nestles should be avoided for their inhumane practices. Dasane by Coca Cola is just tap water re-packaged. Look for local labels that tell you the water is actually SPRING WATER found and locally bottled. A few companies that sell spring water here in Ontario include: REAL CANADIAN and KIRKLAND. If you boycott Nestles like I do, don't just boycott it, tell your local grocer or provider WHY. You can find a lot on google but here's a link to Nesle's aggressive water campaign: http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/06/04/nestle-canada-water-drought_n_3385472.html