Son of Five Rivers Blog

For the advancement of Entrepreneurship, Sustainability & the Ecology of Everyday Life

A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet

New York Times

By BILL MARSH  Published: July 15, 2007 under IDEAS & TRENDS (NY Times)

THOSE eight daily glasses of water you’re supposed to drink for good health? They will cost you $0.00135 — about 49 cents a year — if you take it from a New York City tap. Or, city officials suggest, you could spend 2,900 times as much, roughly $1,400 yearly, by drinking bottled water. For the extra money, they say, you get the added responsibility for piling on to the nation’s waste heap and encouraging more of the industrial emissions that are heating up the planet.

But trends in American thirst quenching favor the 2,900-fold premium, as the overflowing trash cans of Central Park attest. In fact, bottled water is growing at the expense of every other beverage category except sports drinks. It has overtaken coffee and milk, and it is closing in on beer. Tap, if trends continue, would be next.

Now New York City officials — like the mayors of Minneapolis, Salt Lake City and San Francisco — are campaigning to get people to reverse course and open their faucets instead of their wallets. The city Health Department, mindful of high obesity rates, says water is more healthful than many other, sugar-filled drinks. The city’s Department of Environmental Protection touts its low environmental impact. Both note that it’s practically free (leaving aside those New Yorkers for whom paying extra is a lifestyle choice).

New York’s water is the envy of municipalities everywhere. It is one of just five major American systems whose water is so good it needs little or no filtration, saving energy and chemicals. (The others are Boston, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and Seattle.)

The system is self-sustaining from rainwater stored in reservoirs. Gravity takes it downhill to the city, where pumps are unnecessary in all but a few neighborhoods.

New York water is quite pure, requiring little chlorine, and low in minerals, giving it a clean taste.

Sounds like an ad for bottled water.

But beverage industry representatives say their version is not just about health and taste — its plastic container, scorned by environmentalists, is actually a plus for consumers.

“The tap water quality is fine in most of the United States,” said John D. Sicher Jr., editor and publisher at Beverage Digest, a trade publication. “The issue is convenience and shifting consumer preference. It’s not so easy, walking down Third Avenue on a hot day, to get a glass of tap water.”

Bottled water has profited from the sagging image of soft drinks, a category in decline for nearly a decade (but still the most consumed of beverages, by far). Preferences evolve — could it be tap’s turn?

“Through education and motivation you can get people to change their habits,” said Emily Lloyd, commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection, citing smoking, recycling and wearing seat belts. Convenience comes in different forms, she added: “It’s easy to fill a bottle of water and stick it in your backpack.”

With surveys showing climate change a growing concern, officials and advocates say they hope people will consider the implications of billions of bottles.

“More than 90 percent of the environmental impacts from a plastic bottle happen before the consumer opens it,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council. Oil for plastic, oil for shipping, oil for refrigeration — and in the end, most of the effort goes to landfills.

“The bottle is going to have to change,” he said, noting research in plastics made from plants. “I’m seeing more interest in this than any time in 30 years.”

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Education, Water | | Leave a comment

1700+ Boil-Water Advisories in Canada

Figure 5Most people don’t think there is a problem, so this statistic may shock you at first… Especially if your hometown is is in Ontario or British Columbia Canada.  That’s because both of these provinces had the highest boil-water advisories in Canada at this time last year (Current stats below).   When we think of Canada, we think of all the rich natural resources and we don’t obviously see or understand some of the water issues.   I’ve put together some stats from CBC and the Canadian Medical Association in an effort to for all of us to understand current issues with water sustainability and drink-ability.

  • There are 1766 provincial boil-water advisories are currently in effect in communities and neighbourhoods across Canada
  • 93 are in First Nations Communitties
  • In British Columbia, the Ministry of Health documented 530 boil-water advisories as of Mar. 31, 2008
  • Saskatchewan had 126 advisories as of Mar. 31, 2008 (53 were emergency boil-water orders, meaning a threat to human health has been identified, the province had another 73 precautionarydrinking water advisories in place, meaning residents were advised to boil water because of the possibility problems exist with their water
  • British Columbia sees water as a provincial jurisdiction and so does not support federal standards, but would love more federal infrastructure cost-sharing without the application of national standards.

Josee Milville-Dechene, editor of The Water Chronicles (, an independent online media organization that monitors water quality, says “everybody in Canada seems to think we don’t haveissues with water, and we do, and they’re growing.” The site maps boil-water advisories and “Do Not Consume” orders from across Canada daily.

Current Stats in Canada


July 14, 2009 Posted by | Education, Water | , | Leave a comment

Charitble Foundation for Water Rights

If you happen to be looking for organizations to support your cause, have a look at the Walter & Duncan Gorden Foundation.  It is a charitable foundation for the water rights in Canada.

They also have a Global  Fellowship program. The Fellowships are targeted towards emerging Canadian leaders who demonstrate potential to enhance Canada’s role on the world stage. The Fellowships will provide successful candidates with a cash award of $20,000 as well as other forms of support.

To be eligible for consideration, applicants must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents between 24 – 35 years of age with previous international experience – paid or volunteer. They also need to demonstrate a sustained commitment to international issues through studies, career choices and volunteer activities

July 14, 2009 Posted by | Education, Water | , , | Leave a comment