Ask Eartha: It’s time to eliminate bottled water from your life |

Ask Eartha: It’s time to eliminate bottled water from your life

Courtney Kenady
Ask Eartha
Recycled plastic sits at the Summit County Resource Allocation Park in November 2017 in Dillon.
Photo by Hugh Carey / Summit Daily archives

Dear Eartha, I often see people at the grocery store purchasing two or three cases of bottled water. Don’t we have good drinking water here in the county? What’s with all the unnecessary plastic?

In 2016, sales of bottled water surpassed soft drink sales in the United States. That year, the world was awakened to the fact that our plastic habit is a crisis clogging our waterways, polluting the oceans, and littering the interior of our country. Plastic bottles of water are the nemesis of local and global environmental stewardship.

So why bottled water instead of tap water?

Many factors contribute to the world’s plastic addiction, which dates back to 1973 and the patent of the first polyethylene terephthalate bottle by Dupont scientist Nathaniel Wyeth. A bottled water craze followed. Bottled water was embraced by billions of people in developing countries with limited access to clean water. But it didn’t stop there. Corporate boardrooms, local gyms and pop-culture icons clung to all manner of bottled water marketed by fashionable beverage corporations.

Furthermore, the public’s confidence and trust in municipal water filtration systems and supply had been eroded by the inaccuracies spewed by some politicians. The bait-and-switch on contamination levels and water supply chains fed public distrust. Today, many Americans — including the shoppers you see in local stores — turn to bottled water as a blanket solution for clean drinking water.

The environmental impact

On a global scale, 1 million plastic beverage bottles are purchased every minute, according to data from Euromonitor International’s global packaging trends report published in 2017 by The Guardian. This is terrifying, especially when you consider that producing single-use plastic bottles requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year. Fewer than 20% of those plastic bottles are recycled, which equates to some 1.5 million tons of plastic waste generated annually.

The bottled water and beverage aisle at the grocery stores are packed three or four shelves high with endless brands and varieties of bottled water. Some bottled water comes from springs, but more than 25% of bottled water comes from other municipal supplies. For instance, just 60 miles south of Breckenridge, Chaffee County is rethinking a measure that allows global-conglomerate Nestle Waters to pump, truck, bottle and sell up to 65 million gallons of water a year from the Arkansas River.

Top of the water food chain

“What many visitors don’t know is that the raw water that we treat comes from the Blue River basin and is mostly snowmelt. It is very good water quality,” said Gregg Altimari, Breckenridge Water Division assistant manager.

In fact, most of the county is at the top of the water food chain. According to the Blue River Watershed Water Efficiency Plan, surface water, or streamflow, supplies 83% of Summit County’s water demands.

When you drink water from the tap, you’re not only taking advantage of Summit County’s high-quality drinking water, you’re reducing waste. Be sure to carry a reusable bottle with you to work, school and on vacation. If you must buy water, choose aluminum cans over plastic, when possible, and always recycle the container.

Courtney Kenady is a guest columnist for the High Country Conservation Center.

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