The story behind water bottles

“Have you ever wondered why people in poor countries lack access to clean water? It is not because nature isn’t providing them enough. Someone is stealing it…”

780 million. Twice the size of the US. This is the number of people in our world who lack access to clean water.

Among them, 3.4 million die each year from water related diseases.

Dying of dehydration is far from being pleasant. At first you experience discomfort, then your skin gets dry, you lose appetite and the heart starts beating fast. Respiration rates begin to increase, the head aches, you faint, you hallucinate.

Passing away because of diarrhoea isn’t nice either. You spend your last minutes of life sitting on a toilet. Oh no, I forgot: people in developing countries do not even have a toilet. Indeed, on earth, there are more individuals owning a phone than a toilet.

On the other side of the planet, things are a little bit different. Wealthy people have access to all kinds of luxurious water. Some are willing to spend 14 dollars for a bottle of 10 thousand-BC-glacier water. Not to mention the “tributo a Modigliani”, which contains 5 mgs of gold at the price of 60 000 dollars.

When these people take their morning showers, in only five minutes they use as much water as a citizen of a developing country during the whole day.

In the US, people consume 1500 water bottles per second. For those living in rich countries, it has become completely normal to consume bottled water. However, what I would like to do here, is to show you the very insanity behind this habit.
People have said they consume water in bottles mainly because they believe it to be safer. Indeed, I will tell you a little secret: nearly half of all bottled water sold in the US is tap water.

In any case, do not panic: tap water is far more controlled than bottled water.

San Francisco’s public water comes from Yosemite National park, in fact it is so pure the Environmental Protection Agency does not even require it to be filtered. To sum up, the main difference between bottled water and tap water is this: the former costs 1000 times more.

That’s not all, the environment is suffering too from this trend: 80% of those bottles end up in the landfill. Plastic is not, and will never be, biodegradable. On top of that, transportation of water bottles is highly polluting.

In any case, even if you are not an environmentalist, you should be concerned, for your own health. Plastic leaches toxins, which have been linked to some major health problems, such as reproductive issues and cancer.
So, to sum up: on one side of the planet people do not even have enough clean water to drink or wash their clothes, while on the other side they spend huge sums of money for a good they could simply get at home by turning on their tap. The issue is that developing countries actually do have enough clean water to fulfil their needs. If only it wasn’t stolen from them. But water is a huge business.

Every US dollar invested in water and sanitation provides an economic return of 8 dollars. For this reason, multinationals are buying up as much water springs as possible, mainly in developing countries. Nestlè has been widely criticized for its exploitation of water in poor areas of the world. The Swiss company is the world leader in the bottled water industry, owning several brands, among which: San Pellegrino, Acqua Panna, Pure Life and Vera. As much as 10% of the multinational’s entire turnover comes from water.

At this point, I think I have clearly exposed good reasons for quitting the habit of consuming water in plastic bottles. Use reusable bottles. Even Bocconi has created one. Don’t let anybody fool you.

Carlotta Werth