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Thinly Read

Fighting the illogical tyranny of bottle water
Scripps Howard News Service


April 12, 2007

Yes, I'll admit it. I pay for water.

I buy my water at pre-Bush gas prices - about a dollar a gallon. It's store-brand, sold in repurposed milk jugs, and as economical as bottled water gets without owning your own break-room cooler. But it's still 93 cents I shouldn't be spending.

I'd gladly pay five cents for the jug's worth in plastic, and two cents for that tamper-proof lid. But I cannot open my wallet for something that flows freely from my sink, garden hose, and showerhead without feeling a slight twinge of liberal guilt and the sharp sting of plain logic.

I feel the cold smack of logic every time I hoist five individual gallons of spring water into my shopping cart. But I suffer the blows for good reason - in fact, for the only good reason to go against one's own common sense. I do it for love.

Basically, I buy bottled water because my girlfriend insists on drinking it. She will not drink water from the tap. I think it has something to do with her ovaries - I tend to zone out when they come into conversation. Regardless, we buy it five jugs at a time, and we drink it like... well, like water.

But over time, the steady prodding of reason has become too much to bear. The only way I can reconcile my spending is to find some way to make bottled water logically necessary. So let's do a little research.

The difference, I've learned, between "spring" water and "drinking" water is that one comes from a spring, often with natural minerals, and the other comes from wherever, with natural municipal lead. Both are typically purified to remove odors and "wildlife residue".

Artesian water, sold at current gas prices and imported from far away lands like Fiji or Delaware, is tapped from a fully-contained clay or rock reservoir. The rock naturally filters the water, leaving soluble minerals behind. The minerals are what make some bottled waters taste differently from others, to the kinds of people who claim they can taste the difference between bottled waters.

Actual mineral water contains minerals in the amount of more than 250 parts per million, and you can definitely tell the difference. I recently sampled a bottle of Gerolsteiner Mineralwasser (German for "Salty Burps"), and have concluded that Germans are weird.

The inoffensive mineral content of traditional bottled water has basically no nutritional benefit. And regular tap water is thoroughly treated, making it just as "healthy" as the bottled variety. The only difference, then, is taste.

And taste is not a good enough reason for my hard-earned dollar. This is what I told myself as I filled my next empty jug straight from the tap. This is my stand against the illogical tyranny of bottled water. This is America; our water is free. Also, this jug has a big red X on it so that my girlfriend won't drink it by mistake and kill me.

Returning the next day for another self-satisfied swig, what greeted me at the cap was not the cold tap water I had poured the day before. This warmed bottle was a whole other chlorinated, foul-smelling animal. I swirled slowly, detecting hints of swimming pool, sulfur, and faucet-crusting lime. And I realized our tap water has its own share of minerals. Unfortunately, they aren't exactly the ones you'd want to drink.

It may seem irrational, or even shameful, that a modern, developed nation would rather pay for its water. But a little research and experimentation lends logic to the bottle.

And really, my ovaries have never felt better.


Ben Grabow writes for the young, the urban, and the easily amused.
Contact him at thinlyread(at)

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