Monday, November 05, 2007

Does Drinking Bottled Water Lead to War?

Someone thinks so. Classical Values has a long, astonished post on the subject. Money quote: "the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom has launched a three-year 'Save the Water' campaign, on the notion that drinking bottled water encourages privatization, which can lead to wars over water." First they came for your toilet paper, now this.

Classical Values knows the debate over water has been around for a long time.

This whole thing makes me nostalgic for the good old days when no Communist would ever drink a glass of tap water. Because, of course, only they knew that the real reason they had put fluoride in our water was to destroy our precious bodily fluids in what a distinguished American general properly called "the most monstrously conceived and dangerous Communist plot we have ever had to face."

Today, of course, the Commies don't mention the fluoride in our drinking water. Instead, (in a pot calling the kettle black move that everyone seems to have missed), they complain about Dick Cheney putting arsenic in our drinking water.

TE Lawrence in his book, The Seven Pillars of Wisdom mentions the word "wells" so often and in important connection with every move, march and consideration, that it bids fair to be part of the strategic landscape. But more pertinently Lawrence described the rules of water use in the Arabian desert.

Men have looked upon the desert as barren land, the free holding of whoever chose; but in fact each hill and valley in it had a man who was its acknowledged owner and would quickly assert the right of his family or clan to it, against aggression. Even the wells and trees had their masters, who allowed men to make firewood of the one and drink of the other freely, as much as was required for their need, but who would instantly check anyone trying to turn the property to account and to exploit it or its products among others for private benefit. The desert was held in a crazed communism by which Nature and the elements were for the free use of every known friendly person for his own purposes and no more. Logical outcomes were the reduction of this licence to privilege by the men of the desert, and their hardness to strangers unprovided with introduction or guarantee, since the common security lay in the common responsibility of kinsmen. Tafas, in his own country, could bear the burden of my safe-keeping lightly.

It is clear from Lawrence's description that ownership of water clearly predated the practice of bottling. While every local Arab tribesman was free to drink water from wells at need, according to a "crazed communism by which Nature and the elements were for the free use of every known friendly person for his own purposes and no more", this privilege extended only to the regular inhabitants. Outsiders were according no such freedom. Outsiders trying to take tribal water would cause war alright, and this before bottling.

Most fads, like the hula-hoop and the yo-yo are harmless because everyone knows they are a game. Fads become dangerous when people stop regarding them as entertaining nonsense and invest them with a coating of scientific rationality. You never worry about a man in a Superman costume at fancy dress party until he tries to climb out the window and tries to fly. Similarly, I don't spend nights worrying about wars that will be caused by bottling water or that the world will be destroyed if we use more than one sheet of toilet paper per day. But what does terrify me sometimes is the thought some people actually think this is true. Ask General Jack D. Ripper about fluoride.


Blogger John Lynch said...

There's a stream of thought that a lot of conflicts are 'really' about water. Supposedly the Six Day War was about water rights. I'd never read that before about 2000, but apparently people living 30 years after the fact have a better understanding of what motivated people at the time...

Me, I just go with what people say they're fighting about.

11/05/2007 08:05:00 PM  
Blogger jj mollo said...

Well, I don't know about the morality of drinking bottled water, but it is a foolish expenditure for a non-existent benefit. If you save every dollar you would have spent on bottled water in an account with 6% return, you'll have about a $60,000 dollar contibution for your retirement at the end of a 36 year career.

Why do we spend all this money and scientific effort on clean water if no one's going to use it? And where do you think bottled water comes from?

11/05/2007 08:33:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

The foreign mobs used to burn down the Coca Cola bottling plants. Sometimes they couldn't get to the US embassy and, in their frustration, savage their own coke supply. I think that's why Coke started to sing "We are the world! We're not the USA! Don't beat us up!"

Of course I speak of the time the world respected and loved us.

11/05/2007 08:46:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I don't drink bottled water, unless it is supplied. Tap water is perfectly fine. I have had the fortune or misfortune to have swilled the very worst sort of bacteria infested stuff during the years I spent knocking about. I remember one evening drinking in the dark from a stream I found near Malaybalay, Bukidnon to find at dawn it was the town sewer. To this day I can drink stuff down that will send many people to the hospital. It's a trait I share in common with many who grew up in the Third World.

But I appreciate the need by some to drink bottled water. My son doesn't have my acquired resistance so I will give him gatorade, fruit juice or bottled water when traveling. It has its uses. But I never knew people would think it could start a war.

11/05/2007 09:06:00 PM  
Blogger Gene Felder said...

Since I am to the right of Attila the Hun, I probably have little in common with the Women's International League of Peace and Freedom, but I think the bigger problem from bottled water is not the water rights, but the plastic bottles.

The economic term is externalities and the environmental damage that results from the way something is produced but is not taken into account in establishing the market price of the goods or materials concerned.

I’d encourage people to view the Los Angeles Times DVD “Altered Oceans” available at,0,7842752.special on what’s happening to our oceans.

I was taken aback see the stomach of a dead bird cut open full of small plastic pieces such as the rings from water bottle caps. Apparently the oceans are full of shiny plastic debris that attracts birds who then ingest the crap.

I have been guilty for many years of using many plastic bottles and plastic bags. I thought I was a good environmentalist as I would put the plastic bottles in my recycle trash bin and take many of the plastic bags to the grocery store to be recycled.

The water bottles are particularly egregious as all along I’ve had a reverse osmosis water filter system at home. Here’s my new intentions: I have purchase a refillable lexan water bottle and am just cleaning, drying, and refilling from home. But I would have no problem refilling it with tap water.

11/06/2007 08:04:00 AM  
Blogger LarryD said...

And where do you think bottled water comes from?

Some of it come from springs, some of it comes from city water, which is then really really purified, after which minerals are added back in.

You are guaranteed better quality than city water, which varies by local. Some city water is not so good, especially if you are sensitive to some contaminates.

One bottled water company only uses bottles made from corn starch, they degrade completely in landfills or when thrown away.

Resource shortages can start conflicts, but this bottle water riff sounds like another rationalization thought of by people in denial about conflicts.

11/06/2007 08:43:00 AM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...

Sounds like someone(s) took this movie way tooooooooo seriously. Water, a movie about a little British possession in the Caribbean that discovered it had special water. Perrier wasn't going to let that happen and of course there are Cubans involved too.

I buy a bottle every now and then. I drink it, take the bottle and then keep refilling it. Up north there is a spring we usually stop by and fill up our bottles from, funny thing is there is an old garbage dump up hill not too far away.

As far as Wretchard's iron constitution I can attest to that. When I first arrived in the UAE I had GI problems for a number of months and then it ended in one day of glorious gut pain. First time in the Philippines I was not too careful about what I drank and while I never got too bad my GIs were never quite correct. The last time I was in the Philippines I had less problems but a buddy drank some "juice" he bought from a street vendor in Moal Boal and got the GIs real bad.

The funny thing is after he recovered he was about to do it again and his wife smacked him.

11/06/2007 10:45:00 AM  
Blogger Yashmak said...

I've done a bunch of reading about this, and have gathered snippets together from a few articles (most notably FDA studies on the matter).

The EPA has adopted the same standards for contaminants in bottled water as for tap water.

Also, most bottled water doesn't contain flouride. Most tap water does, in quantities not dangerous, but sufficient to promote tooth strength. In fact, parents should be careful about providing their children with bottled water, because they need the flouride found in tap water to aid in the formation of strong healthy teeth.

Moreover, water bottled in the same state in which it is sold, is completely exempt from FDA regulations on bottled water safety. This accounts for 60-70% of all bottled water sold in the USA.

According to government and industry estimates, between 25-40% of bottled water is tap water, nothing more!

Finally, the FDA rules allow a water bottler to refer to water pumped from a well, and requiring chemical treatment, to be referred to as "spring water".

I haven't ever felt anything but safe drinking either bottled or tap water. My point is simply, the added expense of bottled water is wholly unnecessary, and provides little if any benefit. It's money better spent elsewhere.

11/06/2007 12:30:00 PM  
Blogger wretchard said...

I think people drink bottled water precisely because of the packaging. This is rational at some level. Water in a bottle is more portable than water in a glass or plastic cup and it eliminates the chore of washing.

Hence when providing for an event like a school outing, the attractions of bottled water are that you can buy it by the case. You don't have to pour it out into cups and you are more or less sure it's potable, because a lot of the contamination comes not from the tap but from glasses into which it is poured. It's the convenience provided by packaging which is behind a lot of its use.

On long bike rides I prefer to buy gatorade or soft drinks, because I get some sugar from it. Where there won't be any stores on the route or if I'm going into the hills, then it's a couple of bike bottles which can be re-filled at opportunity. Bike bottles are better than a regular canteen because you can drink from them lying down by squeezing. They are also good for use in washdowns in the field.

So bottled water has no use in some people's universe, like mine. But it apparently has a place in others. If I were taking kids camping or people whose guts have been pre-emptively infected with bacteria to the boonies, bottled water would be the thing. What I can't get over is people ordering bottled water in big city restaurants. Some persons especially, who are on a diet, don't drink or are philosophically averse to cola will drink water. But some restaurants won't serve you tap water willingly or give you dagger looks if you ask for it, as in "Mr. Cheapstake". In these cases I think, the bottled water especially if the of the European kind, becomes more of status good than actual water.

11/06/2007 01:07:00 PM  
Blogger Marcus Aurelius said...


I have seen people from the Philippines refuse to drink their tap water over here, preferring bottled water instead. I can sorta understand that as I kept my water consumption to bottled water only on my last trip.

Convenience is the big hitter and plying a customer's money as well. During our barbecue & lumpia selling operations we buy three/four cases of bottled water and make good coin on it, plus when I am working the booth (my coffee dose for the day is already fulfilled) I will either take a beer break or keep my beverage consumption to water, bottles are close & handy.

Ski Brule where I regularly ski used to keep a pitcher of ice water out with disposable glasses for us. I would pour one or two of them to go with my chilli dog (with cheese) & beers, but that pitcher is long gone and only bottled water is available.

Most places I go to (fast food joints) will give you a cup and there is a water tap either near the soda fountain or on the soda fountain, other than Ski Brule I can not recall any place I have been to that got its nose out of joint for me asking for water (however, if I sat at the bar of busy bar and asked for a glass of water I would guess that elicit hostility if not from the management then from one wanting a seat at the bar to drink beers).


11/06/2007 01:40:00 PM  
Blogger Derek Kite said...

Are these people from Canada? It is common to hear people worrying about the US stealing our water. Did you know that they are going to run a canal to drain the great lakes to fill the swimming pools in California?

There are the 9/11 truthers who are certifiably nuts, then these people. Maude Barlow, Naomi Wolf(sp?) etc. Ranting on about all the hidden conflict where people are getting shot daily for quite obvious reasons.

I wonder sometimes if people can't handle reality so they imagine scary scenarios that aren't real, scare themselves knowing that it is all in their imagination, therefore they are really safe.

Reality is scary enough, thanks.


11/06/2007 05:50:00 PM  
Blogger LarryD said...

Derek I wonder sometimes if people can't handle reality so they imagine scary scenarios that aren't real, scare themselves knowing that it is all in their imagination, therefore they are really safe.

Yes, it's called displacement. I think it account in part for: Bush Derangement Syndrome; Global Warming; and now, Bottled Water.

11/07/2007 06:27:00 AM  
Blogger 1389 said...

I regularly drink bottled water because:

1. I travel a lot.

2. I have been ill before from contaminated tap water, including in the US. Well water in certain areas can sometimes contain coliform or other microbes, as I have found out the hard way. Water that has been sitting for a long time in pipes or water coolers in public buildings can be iffy also.

3. Cities test for only a small number of possible contaminants in the water.

4. I have a history of kidney stones, and need to drink plenty of water to prevent them. If I have bottled water available, it tastes fresh and clean, and I feel that I can trust it, so I'm likelier to drink an adequate amount of water.

5. jj mollo might be right about himself and many other people, but for me, the hospital bills would be a real budget killer.

11/07/2007 06:55:00 PM  

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