The Story of Bottled Water

The Story of Bottled Water by Madeline Ostrander, senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Worried about what’s in your tap?

That’s exactly what the water bottling industry hoped when it developed brands like Dasani, Perrier, and Poland Springs, which promise to be “natural,” “pure,” “clean,” even “sexy” alternatives to tap water.

But the very companies that market those brands, like Nestlé and Coca Cola, are putting public water supplies in jeopardy in communities both in the United States and overseas. They’re selling us a product that is often not any cleaner than tap water, and is a lot pricier.

Bottled water is a scam. The simplest way to understand why is to watch a new, short film released today by the creators of The Story of Stuff. Like its predecessor, The Story of Bottled Water uses simple language and surprisingly charming stick figures to walk you through the perils of the bottled water economy. “Bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water,” says Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and director. “Can you imagine paying 2,000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?”

The Story of Bottled Water film still

Bottled water often comes straight from the tap, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not. It is not necessarily safer. For instance, in 2004, the Coca-Cola company had to recall all of its Dasani water from the United Kingdom, after officials discovered the water exceeded the legal limit for bromate, a carcinogen. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water—on average, they contained eight chemical pollutants, no better than tap water.

But there’s something even more insidious about the way that the bottled water industry preys on our public water systems and tap water. Water is both the most basic of human needs and a product of nature. It can’t actually be manufactured, so bottling it up and selling it always means removing water from a public source. As the bottled water market has taken off, we’ve seen public water fountains begin to disappear. Meanwhile, citizens in rural towns have begun to take notice that water-bottling companies are trying to sell off water that actually belongs to them. Communities like Barnstead, New Hampshire have fought hard to keep Nestle from bottling and shipping away their local water.

China’s Living Water Garden
Photo essay: Chengdu’s most popular public park is is a 5.9 acre inner-city natural water treatment system.

We’ve gotten used to thinking we have more than enough water to go around in this country, but it’s not true. According to experts like Peter Gleick, the United States is facing a water crisis that will only get worse in coming years. Already major water supplies like the Ogallala Aquifer and Lake Mead, which together supply water for millions across the Southwest and Great Plains, are in big danger of running dry. Climate change is going to alter everything we know about water—how much stays in our reservoirs, how much snow falls in the Sierras, how our rivers flow, and how much we have available to drink, irrigate our crops, and water our lawns. When we let a private company control, bottle, or sell our water—whether it’s Coca-Cola or the private water operator Thames—we’re giving up some measure of control over our health, environment, lives, and futures.

In May, YES! Magazine will unveil a full issue about how to protect our water and keep it clean and accessible. You’ll read about radical breakthroughs in contentious Western water wars, about a community that bought its water back from private control, about farms that are learning how save water by taking care of soil, and about ways to get all the water you need, even if you live in the heart of the desert.

In the meantime, you can celebrate World Water Day by watching The Story of Bottled Water, and read more about campaigns to protect water in our online and magazine coverage.

Madeline Ostrander

Madeline Ostrander is senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Life, Liberty, Water by Maude Barlow
A global water justice movement is demanding a change in international law to ensure the universal right to clean water for all.

Who’s To Blame For The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Look In The Mirror.

The slowly moving, perpetually undulating mass of pastel and primary colored plastic trash that bobs up and down in the middle of the ocean is perhaps one of the biggest man made eyesores of its …

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The slowly moving, perpetually undulating mass of pastel and primary colored plastic trash that bobs up and down in the middle of the ocean is perhaps one of the biggest man made eyesores of its kind aside from the infinite landfills of rotting post consumer waste that continue to dot our landscape. We’ve seen photos and video footage documenting the existance of this aquatic nightmare and every single one of us probably understands the correlation between our consumer obsession with plastic and what happens when we discard the temporary fixtures of our lives. For years, human beings have purged ships and boats of their excess plastic waste. We’ve conveniently forgotten to clean up after ourselves following long, lazy days at the beach. Countless plastic shopping bags, one-time-use plastic water bottles and beverage caps have been wind-swept from the pavement (where we dropped them) into overflowing sewage systems or carried there following rain storms.


Our rational minds may tell us that a state-sized mass of plastic trash does not belong in the middle of the ocean and our mouths may even fall agape at the sight of hard to fathom images of the chunky plastic buouyant soup. In spite of the shock that may radiate through our systems, every single one of us is to blame for the Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s existance. Scoff if you will. Cling onto the fact that you are a diligent recycler — go ahead and pound your chest while proudly declaring that you gave up bottled water one year ago and that reusable bags are your thing. You can itemize all of the personal efforts you’ve made to positively impact the environment but the bottom line is that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the result of society’s carelessness, and as a member of the human race, every single one of us is to blame.


There is now so much plastic waste clogging the ocean 1,000 miles north of Hawaii that scientists estimate it is now about twice the size of Texas. This is hardly accidental, unless you consider apathy and outright littering a chronic mistake that has been coincidentally repeated ad nauseum by the large majority of our population. Perhaps it is a symptom of our cultural ignorance or it demonstrates the general lack of regard that humans have for what happens beyond our own small sphere.  How many times have you or someone else you know uttered such phrases as: “I’m too busy.” “It’s not my fault in the first place.” “Let someone else deal with it.” “I’ve never thrown out a single piece of plastic in my life, so don’t look at me.” “There’s no recycling service in my neck of the woods.” “I don’t live in the middle of the ocean, so why should I care?”


 Not only is it our problem, we’ve got to stop passing the buck and presuming that someone else will take care of this mess. It may be unreasonable to suggest that everyone should start paddling out into the middle of the ocean on their weekends and dragging as much plastic trash as they can back to the mainland for proper recycling — that job is perhaps best left to marine scientists who must figure out how on Earth they can resolve this ecological problem as effectively as possible. In the meantime, we can’t allow these images to fade from our minds because they serve to remind us that our daily eco-friendly efforts can make a huge difference. Stay away from non-recyclable plastic products and make sure that every single piece of plastic that does enter your household leaves in a recycling container or is repurposed in a responsible manner. Pick up plastic “junk” that is discarded in public places and relocate it to a proper recycling bin. Shift your household over to more eco-friendly alternatives such as glass, wood and ceramic. Stop thinking that recycling one bag or cap is not going to make a difference. Clearly, it all adds up over time…just take a good long look at what is clogged in the middle of the ocean for all the proof that you’ll ever need.

The Top 10 Facts About the Great Pacific Garbage Patch:

  1. Each year, 10% of the 200 billion pounds of plastic produced globally ends up in our oceans and now, roughly 46,000 pieces of plastic litter are floating on every square mile of the ocean.
  2. A 1,700 mile mass of plastic garbage sits in the middle of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, a slowly moving, clockwise spiral of ocean currents.
  3. The gyre actually consists of two large masses of ever-accumulating trash, the Western Pacific patch (located east of Japan and west of Hawaii) and the Eastern Pacific patch (floating between Hawaii and California).
  4. Both zones form what is referred to as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and they are connected by a thin 6,000-mile long current called the Subtropical Convergence Zone.
  5. The mass moves seasonally as much as a thousand miles North and South in the Pacific while in warmer El Nino periods, it drifts even further South.
  6. Approximately 3.5 million tons of plastic waste can be found in this water-bound waste zone.
  7. 90 percent of all trash floating in the world’s oceans is plastic-based and some of the most common items found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch include toothbrushes, wrappers, bottle caps, plastic shopping bags, pacifiers, old toys, fishing floats, soda bottles, Styrofoam chunks, tangled nets and even patio chairs.
  8. The plastic pieces in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch contain toxic elements able to absorb other chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, and these components can persist in the environment for decades.
  9. 100,000 marine mammals each year — such as sea turtles, seals and birds — are the victims of plastic trash-related deaths because they consume or become entangled in the waste.
  10. There are up to six pounds of marine litter for every pound of plankton in the ocean.

Refill, NOT Landfill!

Source: Pete van Cleve, Water for Life

Save Money, Save Plastic, Save the Planet…Refill Not Landfill! 

Plastic ½ liter Bottles versus buying a Kinetico K5 Drinking Water Station from Water for Life.  

24 plastic ½ liter bottles = 3.17 Gal. @ $5.00 = $1.58 per gallon x 500 Gal. = $790 x 10 = $7900.  Equivalent of 3 cases per week for the average family of 4 saves you more than enough to buy and maintain two K5’s for 10 years and keeps 37,440 ½ liter plastic bottles out of the landfill.   Don’t use that many bottles now?  Cut it in half = $3850 saves you enough to buy and maintain one K5 for 10 years and keep 18,720 ½ liter plastic bottles out of the landfill. 

Two people drinking 1 bottle each per day for lunch for 270 working days per year @ $1.00 =$540 per year x 10 years = $5410.  You save enough to buy and maintain two K5’s for 10 years and eliminate 5400 plastic bottles or cans from the landfill.  Double these results for a family of 4.  

K5 VOCGuard =   $1419 installed year 1 price @ 500 gallons = $2.84 per gallon

                                    $197.50 service year 2 price @ 500 gallons = .395 per gallon

                                    $760.00 parts year 2 -10 price @ 500 gallons = .19 per gallon

                                    $2376.50 Total 10 year cost  

 Keep the Convenience,  Eliminate the Plastic,  Save the Planet…Refill Not Landfill! 

When you purchase a K5 Drinking Water Station from Water for Life, we provide each member of your family with their choice of a Water for Life Glass Pitcher and 4 Glasses or up to 4 refillable, dishwasher safe Stainless Steel, Eastar, or Polycarbonate bottles to use at games, to take outside while mowing the lawn, to take with you in the car, to take to work or school, and to use while watching TV instead of washing glasses or using plastic cups.   

Live more Abundantly with the K5 Drinking Water Station…Refill Not Landfill!

Are you rationing your expensive pure water bottles just for some drinking now and using 1 case or less per week?  With a K5 Drinking Water Station from Water for Life, Mom can cook or make coffee with it, give a treat to the dog, get the kids drinking more water, water the plants with it, use it in the steam iron, make ice cubes with it, make drink mix drinks instead of Coke or juice when the kids want something sweet, fill the stainless steel bottles half way and freeze them overnight and refill them completely before games for an ice cold drink at lunch, work, or school,  and Dad can drink ice cold purified water instead of Coke after mowing the lawn, serve K5 water for dinner from a pitcher into glasses instead of drinking Cokes or using more bottles, make mixed drinks with K5 water when friends come over,  make iced tea with K5 water at parties or serve pure water from the Water for Life Pitcher into Water for Life Glasses to guests instead of passing out plastic bottles.  Extra bottles or Glassware are available for purchase. 

Healthier Family…Refill Not Landfill! 

If your average family of 4 each buys a Coke per day for lunch spending .50 cents each for 270 days per year, you will spend $540 per year and $5410 in 10 years on Coke! Wouldn’t it be healthier to drink Cokes only every other day and drink K5 water on alternative days?  The savings actually pays for two K5’s and the family would be healthier because they would be consuming less sugar or artificial sweetener, less caffeine and carbonation, less artificial flavor and food color.  What if you drank pure water every day?

Go to this link to view a 4 minute K5 video.                                                                                                                           

visit Water for Life online or call them at 770-578-0600 

 Always fresh,  Always pure…Guaranteed!                  Call 770-578-0600