Water has gone to Washington.

drinking_waterThe Environmental Working Group presented an 18-month study to a congressional oversight hearing about the gaps in government regulation of the bottled water industry.

Summing up the problem nicely is Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the non-profit consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch:

“The Bottled water industry’s strategy has been to market bottled water as the safe and clean alternative to tap water…This myth has been used to trick consumers into paying thousands times more for a product that is the same or even more polluted than the water available from our faucets. Tap water in the United States undergoes rigorous testing for contaminants—as often as 480 times a month, far more than the once–a–week test for bottled water.”

FDA vs. EPA

Under the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, bottled water companies have complete latitude to choose what, if any, information to divulge to consumers about their water.

Compare that to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) — the federal agency that oversees the nation’s municipal water utilities. All 52,000 nationwide community tap water suppliers need to produce an annual water quality report detailing the water source and pollutant testing results, as required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. (Although tap water does come with its own set of problems…)

Watered Down Labels

Furthermore, EWG researchers analyzed labels and websites from 188 bottled waters to learn which bottlers voluntarily disclosed the same information as required of community water suppliers. EWG found that many disclose little to no information at all on water source and purity.

What You Can Do

To sum it up, aqua junkies, I suggest that you:

  • Buy a sturdy reusable water bottle which will save the on plastic waste and save you money
  • Install a high quality water filtration system in your home

If you have to buy bottled, make it one that counts, like:

  • Ethos: Available at Starbucks, this company gives .05 of every bottle to humanitarian water programs around the globe.
  • Park City Ice Water: Uses 75% less energy to produce packaging than its counterparts
  • Project 7: 50% of sales go to one of 7 critical areas including feeding the hungry, healing the sick, etc.
  • Keeper Springs: Robert Kennedy’s own, all profits go to the environment