How Bottled Water is Killing Natural Water Resources
Bottled water is something we see everywhere we go. We buy it at sporting events. We find it in vending machines at work. It is sold almost everywhere. But the problem is, those plastic bottles are reaping a great deal of harm on local water sources around the world, in some areas that have very little water to spare. Moreover, they are hardly ever recycled thus damaging landfills, ground water, and our oceans.
Pakistan, being one of the driest countries on earth, has always battled with scarcity of water availability. While their ability to forge ahead despite any setbacks is impressive, many environmental impacts were not considered during hydraulic construction in the past, and the inevitable consequences therein have left Pakistan with a depleting environment, water source, and access to clean drinking water.
Access to clean drinking water is a basic human right. The United Nations has stated that a human right is a universal and indivisible standard “that provides equality and outlaws discrimination” (Rosemann, 5). Violations of the basic human right to water occur when countries fail to provide clean drinking water to all citizens, or when bottled water for a charge is the only option for people.
Pakistan experiences less than 240mm of rainfall each year, making it one of the most arid countries in the world. The Indus River system, which is a combination of the Indus, Jhelum, Chenab Ravu, Beas, and Sutlej rivers, is the only source of water influx providing 180 billion cubic meters of water from the melted snow of the Western Himalayas (Agriculture and Rural Development Unit).
Despite having the best hydraulic engineers in the world, and despite building the world’s largest earth-filled dam, Pakistan has continually faced problems with water. They are not alone in their struggles. The United Nations Development Program states that:
“Water plays a pivotal role for sustainable development, including poverty reduction. Given the importance of water to poverty alleviation, human and ecosystem health, the management of water resources becomes of central importance. Currently, over 1 billion people lack access to water and over 2.4 billion lack access to basic sanitation. This water crisis is largely our own making. It has resulted not from the natural limitations of the water supply or lack of financing and appropriate technologies, even though these are important factors, but rather from profound failures in water governance.”
To make matters worse, it is in these areas that bottled water is often manufactured and then sold to local communities first, depleting local water systems and second, hindering access to clean drinking water exchanging it for bottled water that comes with a steep fee.
There are many sobering facts to be considered, the first of which is that Pakistan is simply one example where bottled water has utilized local resources in exchange for charging citizens for the right to clean drinking water but it is one of the most prominent examples. Nestlé, like many drink manufacturers, has capitalized upon water management issue and started a private operation to supply bottled water to residents of Pakistan in an effort to combat the lack of clean drinking water available through the public sector. Nestlé’s water brochure states that:
“Bottled water is not a major part of the solution to the world’s drinking water needs. However, when no public safe water supply is available, bottled water can be a source of clean water. Bottled water is often the consumers’ choice for a healthy beverage that gives them a source of minerals, helps to prevent obesity, and in so doing, reduces the risk of associated healthcare problems.” (Public Affairs)
They began an expansion into developing countries, providing bottled water for the 44% of Pakistani residents, nearly 90% in rural areas, who do not have access to clean drinking water. While bottled water is not considered an “improved” method of water supply (improved being limited to household connection, public standpipe, borehole, protected dug well, protected spring, and rainwater collection), but considering that access to clean water is a basic human right, the then-leader of the water initiation project in Pakistan argued that they were doing what they could as a company to help the people in any areas that they could, hoping to slowly negate such statistics as the 200,000 children who die each year from diarrhea and diarrhea-related diseases. With a lack of publicly available drinking water, bottled water—though an expensive alternative—is where the residents must turn.
The first problem with bottled water from private companies is the lack of government regulation therein. There are currently no inspections of processing plants or contaminant testing for private bottling firms. And Nestle has come under fire time and time again for the contents found in the bottled water. The second problem is the subsequent pollution and harm those bottles cause.
This has led to issues where Nestle has come under fire for the impurities found in their bottled water and for the impacts that bottling water has had on local water sources. But that impact isn't limited too the depletion of local water sources. On average Nestle fills 1.7 billion bottles of water and then transports them around the world. They pump hundreds of millions of gallons of water regularly which has a significant impact on local water sources. It literally takes over 2 gallons of water to purify just one gallon of drinking water pumped into these bottles.
Now studies indicate that every second 1500 plastic water bottles are consumed just in the United States alone. These plastic bottles contain by Bisphenol A, otherwise known As BPA which is a chemical that makes the plastic hard and translucent. However it's also an endocrine disruptor which means the plastic is harmful to your health and has been linked to things like defects in newborns, reduced fertility, neurological issues, and certain types of cancers. Pregnant women who drink from plastic bottles containing BPA are at a high risk of damage to the growing fetus.
Plastic water bottles are causing a great deal of harm to the environment in and of themselves. The plastic bottles are made from a petroleum product that takes a huge amount of energy to not only manufacturer but transport. Unfortunately most of these plastic bottles are not recycled which means they end up in landfills where the dangerous chemicals get leached into the ground where they make their way into the oceans. In fact, approximately 46000 pieces of plastic are found floating in every square mile of ocean. And even before they end up in the ocean causing damage to ecosystems, 8% of the bottles end up in landfills. And they don't recycle; it takes them over 1000 years to decompose. The caps themselves that go on the plastic bottles are not recyclable so they end up in our oceans alongside plastic bags and eventually are found inside the stomachs of sperm whales and fish.
How to Give Back
Many companies use these bottled water options and other beverage options in their break rooms inadvertently contributing to the problem. Thankfully there are solutions. The Lavit All-in-one drink system gives companies an opportunity to provide a multitude of beverage options that are free from preservatives, use natural ingredients, and most importantly rely upon 100% recyclable lids, use purified local water and not imported water so desperately needed by communities on the ground.
Giving back to the community is more important now than ever before is especially when one takes into consideration the impact that things like bottled water have had on communities around the world. And that is why the Lavit drink system donates a portion of its proceeds to the company OneDrop. This company provides clean, accessible drinking water sources such as water wells to communities that need it. Not only does this organization give sustainable beverage solutions to businesses that rectify the issue of plastic pollution, but they are focused on sustainability and making the planet better in more ways than one.
Agriculture and Rural Development Unit. South Asia Region. Pakistan Country Water Resources Assistance Strategy, Water Economy: Running Dry. World Bank, (2005). Print.
Cernansky, R. (2009). When Recycling Is Bad for the Environment | DiscoverMagazine.com. Retrieved from http://discovermagazine.com/2009/jul-aug/06-when-recycling-is-bad-for-the-environment
Glennon, R. (2019). Challenges to Nestle’s Bottled Water Strategy. Retrieved from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/challlenges-to-nestles-bottled-water-strategy_b_59c2dec0e4b0c87def88350a
Hinterthuer, A. (2019). Just How Harmful Are Bisphenol A Plastics?. Retrieved from http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=just-how-harmful-are-bisphenol-a-plastics
Public Affairs. The Nestlé Water Management Report. Switzerland: Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations, March 2007. Print.
Rosemann, Nils, Actionaid Pakistan. Drinking Water Crisis in Pakistan and the Issue of Bottled Water: The case of Nestlé’s ‘Pure Life’. Switzerland: Swiss Coalition of Development Organizations, April 2005. Print.
Scholtus, P. (2019). The US Consumes 1500 Plastic Water Bottles Every Second, a fact by Watershed. Retrieved from https://www.treehugger.com/clean-water/the-us-consumes-1500-plastic-water-bottles-every-second-a-fact-by-watershed.html