Bottled Water

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But It’s Just a Bottle of Water…
by Lindsey May, Jessica Kotke, and Charles R. Bomar Department of Biology University of Wisconsin—Stout

Part I—Moving In
On the first Mega-Store trip on move-in day at Midwest University, Sally and her mom picked up groceries for the dorm. Sally’s mom insisted on getting bottled water for her daughter because of her firm belief that bottled water was safer and cleaner than tap water. Back at the dorm, however, Sally’s new roommate, Jane, a sophomore Environmental Studies major, argued against this with facts she had learned in class. “Did you know that while tap water is frequently tested to maintain public health and safety, bottled water has no guidelines for testing? The fda can’t regulate water that is bottled and sold within the same state, which accounts for – of bottled water.” Sally was taken aback by her new roommate’s comments on the first day that they met. “Ummmm, ok, but it can’t be that bad,” she mumbled. Sally’s mother, on the other hand, admired Jane’s enthusiasm and passion for the environment, and her knowledge of bottled water. “So what you’re saying is you want to pay a lot more for untested water sealed in bottles that are horrible for the environment, especially since people don’t recycle?” said Jane. “Water bottles are convenient… anyway, I recycle… sometimes,” stuttered Sally. Jane was appalled to hear that her new roommate didn’t recycle often. What kind of person was she? “Do you know what happens to the unrecycled water bottles?!” she asked. Feeling momentarily brilliant, Sally spouted, “They go into landfills, of course.” “Yes, landfills that are filling quickly,” snapped Jane. “We don’t have room for water bottles that could be recycled. When water bottles are thrown in the trash, not only do they fill landfills, but they also increase air pollution and help destroy our ozone layer. When they are incinerated with the regular trash, toxic fumes are emitted that are harmful to our health, and these include greenhouse gasses that are also harmful to the environment.” “Okay, okay, you made your point; I’ll recycle my water bottles ALL the time,” muttered Sally. “But you still won’t stop drinking bottled water! Do you know where the water comes from? A lot of companies get their water from aquifers, many of which are running low. Water bottle companies do bulk water exports, extracting groundwater at unsustainable rates. And did you know that once an aquifer is emptied or polluted, they are almost impossible to restore? Soon we will have some major water shortages.” Sally was frustrated, already arguing with her roommate, but she realized that Jane made a good point, and was impressed with her knowledge. But she still wondered why we didn’t hear about these effects if they were so horrible, and what could they do about it anyway.

“But It’s Just a Bottle of Water…” by May, Kotke, & Bomar

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After meeting Jane, Sally’s mom wondered how the girls would get along this semester. She was also intrigued with the information she heard from Jane. Two weeks later Sally’s mother was in the Mega-Store back in her hometown and reached for a case of bottled water. She hesitated and thought… “Should I really be buying this water if it’s so bad for the environment?”

Questions
. Should Sally’s mother buy the bottled water? Why or why not?

“But It’s Just a Bottle of Water…” by May, Kotke, & Bomar

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Part II—Background
The recent popularity of bottled water has brought about a multitude of interrelated environmental issues, of which most consumers are not aware. Bottled water costs – per gallon when purchased over the counter, and is – times more expensive than municipal tap water, with no guarantee that the bottled water is safer that tap water. Not only does it cost a small fortune to purchase bottled water, there are numerous associated costs in recycling pet(e). pet(e), or polyethylene terephthalate, is a plastic resin and a form of...
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