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~ The SAVE Living Column ~ Tap Water vs Bottled Water

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Americans purchase approximately 42.6 billion individual one-liter bottles of water each year. Some families spend hundreds of dollars a year for bottled water either because they have concerns about the safety or taste of tap water or they just like the convenience.

Is drinking from the public water supply safe?

The public water supplies in Massachusetts are among the best in the country. They are subject to the most stringent government standards in the world. To protect public health, MassDEP requires your local water supplier to perform ongoing tests for the presence of bacteria, lead and other heavy metals, herbicides and pesticides and industrial solvents. In Saugus, our water supply comes from the Quabbin Reservoir – located in a remote area far from any sources of dangerous pollution – and is thought to be some of the best tasting water in the state.

Home water treatment devices, such as filters, certainly can make tap water taste better – but they also can breed bacteria if they are not properly maintained. Before investing in a treatment device or bottled water, try chilling your tap water.

Is bottled water always safe?

Bottled water may taste better than the water that comes out of your tap, but it’s a lot more expensive and isn’t necessarily “healthier.” We may assume that bottled water comes only from pristine streams, but that’s not the case. Nearly half of all bottled water is reprocessed tap water sold at prices up to 3,000 times higher than a consumer pays for tap water. We are paying for the additional processing, even though the water already meets federal water quality standards before bottling.

Like any other product, water occasionally gets recalled, but more often than not we don’t hear much about it. There have been more than 100 recalls of contaminated bottled water, often months after the products were delivered to store shelves and consumed by the public.

What are the environmental costs?

It’s estimated that around 60-80% of the plastic water bottles purchased by Americans end up in landfills. In Massachusetts and most other states, there is no deposit/no return on plastic water bottles, and while they can be recycled with other household recyclables, many get tossed into trash cans when people are away from home. And besides the water wasted in the processing of bottled water, there is the considerable amount of water and resources used in making the plastic bottles themselves.

What to do?

Thankfully, an increasing number of people leave the house with a reusable bottle that can be refilled throughout the day, but the percentage of people who have adopted this habit is still low. As an environmental organization, Saugus Action Volunteers for the Environment (SAVE) urges its members and others in the community to make the transition to this practice for the health of our planet.

SAVE is a nonprofit organization promoting a better quality of life in Saugus through environmental action since 1973. SAVE has had an eventful history supporting the preservation of the wildlife, water bodies, open spaces and other natural resources throughout Saugus. Together, SAVE members engage in events and programs throughout town, contributing to a caring and engaged community. Aiming to support the long-term well-being of our dynamically and diverse ecosystems, SAVE also seeks to reduce/eliminate pollution and spread awareness about environmental topics. Learn more about SAVE at https://saugussave.wordpress.com. Go to the Contact Us tab to leave us a question or comment.

Consider joining SAVE to become an active participant in our efforts to make Saugus a greener, healthier place to live! SAVE will have a regular column every few weeks; we will do our best to answer questions we are often asked. If you have a question for us to answer, please send your question to Copresidents Ann Devlin at adevlin@aisle10.net or Stephanie Shalkoski at stephaniems@gmail.com​.


Sources: the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP), CBS News, CreditDonkey.

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