In her new book Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Royte takes a critical look at the business of selling a natural resource essential to human survival. Her study not only makes a case for business reform (Royte estimates that bottled water industry, which includes big companies including Coca-Cola (KO) and Pepsi (PEP) creates up to 40 billion a year in wasted plastic containers), it also asks some important questions on behalf of consumers.
Are folks wasting their cash by buying bottled water? What is so wrong with tap, anyway? For answers, MainStreet spoke with Royte from her home in New York City. Her ways to stay hydrated, while saving money at the same time, might surprise you:
What’s the first thing the consumer needs to know about the difference between tap and bottled water?
Bottled water is inspected less frequently than tap water and even when it is finally inspected, the results aren’t made public. Tap water utilities are required to send out a right-to-know report every year. Tap water’s tested more than 100,000 times a year and the FDA [Food & Drug Administration] inspector makes it out to a bottled water plant once every one to five years.
Do you think buying bottled water is worth it for the consumer?
I’m going to say ‘no’ to that. It’s not worth it for the consumer no matter where you live. I think people should know what’s in their tap water. If they have questions beyond what their right-to-know report tells them, they should shell out the money and test it themselves. It may lie to rest any qualms they have. If it raises qualms and they are worried about it, the next step is to get a filter. I think people should go to a filter before they go to private water supply because it’s much easier on the environment and it’s much easier on their wallet.
So what do you drink – tap or bottled?
I drink tap water. I run it through a really simple pour-through filter. The only thing I need it to do it is doing – taking the chlorine out. But your readers are all across the country and 89.3% of community water systems in this country meet or exceed federal standards. So that’s almost everyone in this country. You know the 89.3% isn’t every one – it does leave 29 million people drinking substandard water.
If you aren’t sure if your tap water is clean, how do you test it?
You call a certified lab. You can call them, or many of them you can arrange it through the internet. I have a list of them on my web site.