Group advocates drinking from tap

By Todd Bivins

Allison Esterle prefers bottled water to tap because of its convenience and portability.

“I don’t think there’s a difference between tap and bottled water,” said Esterle, an elementary education freshman. “It’s just easier to drink bottled water.”

But one national organization is working to change that perspective among college students.

The Food & Water Watch, a non-profit consumer organization that advocates measures to ensure safe water and food, has launched a campaign called Take Back the Tap. It encourages college students and entire campuses to kick bottled water in favor of drinking from the tap.

Breaking the bottled-water habit means recognizing health, environmental and economic costs of bottled water, according to a Take Back the Tap news release.

A local water resource expert was most worried about bottled-water drinkers’ wallets.

“The biggest disadvantage is cost,” said James Kipp, associate director of the Kentucky Water Resources Research Institute. “If you calculate the cost per gallon, buying single bottles of water costs more per gallon at this point than gasoline does.”

A 20-ounce Dasani bottled water costs $1.30 at campus dining facilities, equal to $8.32 per gallon.

But the negative effects bottled water has on the environment should also be considered, Kipp said. Making plastic bottles requires oil, enough to fuel 100,000 cars a year, according to the news release, and more fuel is used to transport the bottles.

“Bottled water requires the production of plastic for the bottles and packaging using hydrocarbons that could be used for fuels and other products,” he said.

Even though plastic can be recycled, 86 percent of the empty plastic water bottles in the nation land in the trashcans instead of recycling bins, according to a Take Back the Tap report.

The Food and Drug Administration regulates bottled water as a food under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. But the Environmental Protection Agency monitors tap water under the Safe Drinking Water Act. According the Take Back the Tap report, regulating water as a food treats it as a commercial product, and the EPA’s tests have stricter guidelines for the water running through kitchen faucets.

Esterle said she was not aware of the effects bottled water could have on the environment and the differences in government regulations.