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Bottled Water and the Developing World
The statistics are jaw-dropping. In the US, consumption of bottled water now surpasses that of milk, coffee, and beer, generating some 50 billion plastic bottles per year. Despite the fact that most Americans have access to safe drinking water from public water sources thousands of times cheaper, bottled water consumption continues to rise exponentially. While the debate at home rages on over the safety and environmental implications of our changing water supply, in much of the developing world bottled water consumption is also increasing at breakneck pace. Here, though, it’s needed for survival.
Don’t Drink the Water
More than one billion people around the world lack access to drinkable water, mostly due to contamination from human sewage. As travelers in countries with non-potable tap water, this has required increased vigilance with everything from brushing our teeth and taking showers to enjoying icy beverages. While we try to follow the golden rule of “wash it, peel it, boil it, or forget it”, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee food is always contaminant-free, and something as simple as eating vegetables washed in tap water can lead to an unpleasant case of the “Traveler’s Tummy”.
Increasingly, people living in these countries depend upon bottled water as a clean and safe alternative to public sources. As in the US and other rich countries, consumption rates have been rising dramatically in the developing world. However, the poor of the world that cannot afford bottled water are often left to drink contaminated sources, leading to millions of sick and dead each year. Some argue that access to drinkable water should be a basic human right that is being threatened by our increasing worldwide reliance on bottled water.
Consider the Alternatives
Luckily, there are alternatives to bottled water, which you can use at home or on the road. Filtration systems can be used to improve the taste or remove harmful contaminants. These filters can be as simple as devices attached to water bottles and pitchers up through large-scale systems designed to purify an entire house’s water supply. Ultraviolet (UV) light is also a popular and effective method of treating water. We carry a small battery-powered UV purifier which can quickly sanitize up to a liter of water at a time. Larger systems are also available for home or office use, such as the UV-powered water cooler we have in the office at Calorie Count.
Drinking water is a precious natural resource many of us take for granted. After just two months traveling in places where bottled water is a necessary part of day-to-day life, it’s become clear to me what a luxury it is for those of us that have a choice.
What’s your take on bottled water?
Calorie Count co-founder Erik Fantasia and his girlfriend, Heather Curtis, are currently traveling through Central America as part of a trip around the world. You can follow their adventures online with Facebook and their blog.