Thursday, 13 October 2005

Bottled stupidity

The things people do to avoid drinking water from their tap: $3.47 for a bottle of Italian water with bubbles in. $4.75 for a four-pack of bottled water you can safely be seen with around the streets of Parnell (right). How dumb do you have to be to buy this stuff?

Britons spend £700 million a year on it, and Americans pay a whopping $22 billion a year for this overpriced tap water -- yes, that' s right, America's two top selling brands, Dasani and Aquafina, are nothing more than reprocessed tap water, and the same process was used in the UK. Here at home, New Zealanders down 40 million litres a year, nearly two thirds of that from Te Waihou spring in Putaruru, which produces water from a source little better than what you use at home to clean your car. That is to say, just as good.

So why do people pay through the nose for what they could get out of the tap? Auckland tap water which mostly comes from dams in the Waitakeres and Hunuas is like having a meal, but it's by no means unpalatable, and what comes out of Auckland's taps is probably the worst of NZ's municipal samples. Even the world's great cities don't have a problem with their water, and in blind taste tests few people can tell bottled water from tap .

The water in Rome is fresh from the mountains; Spanish water is crystal clear and refreshing; even Parisian water is fine. Sure, Sydney water is like a three-course meal, but still drinkable once you get used to it; and London water used to taste as though someone died in it, and was so full of lime that shower heads, kettles and (probably) urinary tracts would regularly clog up -- it was said at one time that a glass of London water has already passed through at least five other people before it got to you -- but Thames Water and Southern Water have changed all that, and even at its worst chilled London tap water was still palatable. The water from Dublin's Liffey is reputed to be the reason Dublin's Guinness tastes so much better than Guinness made elsewhere (NZ water is just too damn clean to make good Guinness apparently) but Dubliners have no problems with what they get in their kitchen sink.

Now it's true that nearly a billion people worldwide don't have access to clean drinking water, more's the pity, and the water in places like Albania, Russia, Sudan and parts of Greece and India are surely to be avoided -- drink your Albanian cocktails without ice cubes just to be safe -- but paying more for bottled water here does nothing to help those who don't have access to clean water, and the horrors of Russian, Albanian and African water just reinforces how good is the tap water most of would enjoy if we didn't insist on paying through the nose for it from the supermarket.

As this chap points out, "do you suppose some water bottlers are having a laugh at their customers' gullibility? How many purchasers of Evian have noticed that this name spelled backwards is 'NAIVE'?"

And why drink bottled water when bottled beer is so much cheaper, and so much better for you? After all historically, bad water is the reason beer drinking caught on, and for most of human history humans consumed clean beer in preference to the dirty water -- why not, when for most of human history water was so contaminated that drinking it was like playing Russian Roulette with giardia. However, boil that water with barley, yeast and hops (a natural antiseptic), strain out the barley husks and let it all stand for a bit so the sugars ferment, and you have a tasty, nutritious, SAFE drink for all the family -- exactly as beer was for much of human history. (That this drink contained alcohol was of course a not unpleasant added bonus.) No wonder the invention of beer produced civilisation, as I might have mentioned once before.

Anyway, if you want to drink chilled bottled water, then just keep a bottle of tap water in the fridge like I do. And spend the money you save on something more worthwhile. Like me. :-)


  1. I never go back to Canterbury without bringing home whatever water I can carry to Auckland. I used to think it was mad, but there is a big difference.

    The best stuff comes out of the laundry tap.

  2. This really is a scam and yes, this is for suckers. It costs twice as much as a litre of petrol and it falls out of the bloody sky. No processing needed.

  3. No sorry PC, London tap water while safe and ok to brush my teeth with, is not for my consumption - and so I drink Naive backwards. It is better than most of the warm beer too. However I never bought bottled stuff in NZ unless I was travelling and needed the bottle!

  4. Oh, harden up Scott. :-)

    Seriously, keep a bottle of London tap water in your fridge and you'll be fine.


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