Bear this in mind the next time you buy a bottle of water from the convenience store:
The environmental problems begin early on, with the way the water is sourced. The bulk of bottled water sold worldwide is drawn from the subterranean water reserves of aquifers and springs, many of which feed rivers and lakes. Tapping such reserves can aggravate drought conditions.
But, bottling the runoff from glaciers in the Alps, the Andes, the Arctic, the Cascades, the Himalayas, Patagonia, the Rockies and elsewhere is not much better, as it diverts that water from ecosystem services such as recharging wetlands and sustaining biodiversity.
This has not stopped big bottlers and other investors from aggressively seeking to buy glacier-water rights. China’s booming mineral-water industry, for example, taps into Himalayan glaciers, damaging Tibet’s ecosystems in the process.
I never knew that bottling drinking water could harm the environment. I sort of doubt the magnitude is as bad as described because whenever you analyse consumption of water by type, the percentage of water that actually ends up being drunk is a small percentage of water that gets used for things like industry or agriculture.
Still if the industry is growing that could prove problematic in the long run. For the moment we just don’t know the full extent of the consequences.
Here in Singapore we’re really fortunate that our tap-water is drinkable. So we actually have no excuse to buy a bottle when options like boiling or filtering are much cheaper and readily available.