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Take Back the Tap

Do you pay more for your bottled water, than you do for your gasoline?

On April 11, UM Go Green kicked off its Take Back the Tap campaign.

Take Back the Tap is a sustainability initiative that promotes drinking tap water and reducing the use of bottled water.

If you are a bottled water drinker, here are five good reasons to make the switch to tap:

1. Bottled water is expensive!

Bottled water sold in UM vending machines for $1.25/20 oz. costs 6.2 cents an ounce. This much for water that is nothing more than filtered tap water, which is bottled near its point of distribution.

Now you're wondering: How much does municipal water cost?

  • Less than 1 cent per gallon. That's per gallon, not per ounce.

2. Bottled water is not healthier than tap water

Chris Baskind at Mother Nature Network says it best: "In theory, bottled water in the United States falls under the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration. In practice, about 70 percent of bottled water never crosses state lines for sale, making it exempt from FDA oversight." 

Municipal water systems in the U.S., however, are well-regulated by the EPA. They are regularly inspected for bacteria and toxic chemicals. If you're interested in how Baltimore's water rates, check out the annual water quality report.

Did you know?  

  • 44 percent of bottled water is sourced from tap water
  • Recent studies suggest bottled water can contain a range of potentially harmful contaminants such as bromate
  • Bottled water is less regulated than tap water—in some regions, the FDA only inspects bottled water every two to three years  

3. Bottled water creates waste

Again, Baskind: "Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, this plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and is in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away."

"That assumes empty bottles actually make it to a garbage can. Plastic waste is now at such a volume that vast eddies of current-bound plastic trash now spin endlessly in the world's major oceans. This represents a great risk to marine life, killing birds and fish, which mistake our garbage for food."

"Thanks to its slow decay rate, the vast majority of all plastics ever produced still exist — somewhere."

Did you know?  

  • Disposing of plastic water bottles costs governments at least $42 million each year
  • The U.S. consumes and discards more than half a billion bottles of water each week, which is enough bottles to circle the Earth five times
  • The energy used to produce and transport water bottles is equal to using 52 million barrels of oil each year
  • From April 2009 to March 2010, the House of Representatives spent at least $860,000 on bottled water—that’s an average $2,000 per person. 

4. Drinking bottled water = decay of public water systems

When we don't support our municipal water systems by using them and championing efforts to maintain them, they fall into disrepair. Water systems in need of maintenance waste water, as they leak and can contaminate otherwise healthy sources of water for those who cannot afford to purchase bottled water. 

Baskin says, "There's plenty of need. In California, for example, the American Society of Civil Engineers estimated the requirement of $17.5 billion in improvements to the state's drinking water infrastructure as recently as 2005. In the same year, the state lost 222 million gallons of drinkable water to leaky pipes."

Did you know?  

  • Public water systems were established in the early 1900s to combat waterborne diseases like typhoid and dysentery.
  • The federal government funded 70 percent of public water system improvements in 1970—today, they fund less than five percent, which leads to underfunded and deteriorating systems
  • Every $1 spent expanding access to safe water in the 20th century generated $23 in increased productivity and reduced health costs 

5. Bottled water is a commodity

Due to increasing urbanization, an ever-growing population, climate change, and pollution, fresh water is becoming our most precious resource.

According to Baskin: "Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water."

What's a human to do?

Here's an idea: buy a stainless steel thermos and fill it with tap water. Bottles are conveniently available on campus at all food vendor locations. Look for the UM Go Green logo.

Conserve water wherever possible, and stay on top of local water issues. Want to know more? Start with the Sierra Club's fact sheet on bottled water.

Take Back the Tap!

Some statistics provided by the 2011 Corporate Accountability International report, “Tapping Congress to Get Off the Bottle.”