Monday, November 8, 2010

Cool Clear Water

When we checked into our motel room in California, there on top of the TV set was a small plastic tray with two "complimentary" quart bottles of water... complimentary, that is, for $5.50 each + tax.

Now I am not a particularly astute shopper and I don't spend a lot of time comparing prices of various consumer goods. But after picking up our rental car prior to checking into our motel, I noted that gasoline was $3.20 a gallon near the airport, which I am sure was not the cheapest gas in the vicinity. A quick calculation revealed that a equal gallon of "Fiji" water would cost $22.00 - that's 688% MORE than an equal volume of gasoline.

Fiji Water has it's own web site: (At $5.50 a quart they can afford it, the bird sounds alone are worth the visit). Really, you SHOULD check their site out, they have information about the Fijian aquifer, cocktail recipes, contests, even a blog! I have seen corporate retail web sites that have less information about their products than this site about drinking water from Fiji. From their site:
In this isolated and idyllic setting, FIJI Water is drawn from an artesian aquifer that lies hundreds of feet below the edges of a primitive rainforest.

That distance and isolation is part of what makes FIJI Water so much purer, healthier, and richer in taste than other bottled waters.
Really - you mean to tell me it costs more to put water in a bottle than, say, drill hundreds of feet under ground in deserts or deep water off-shore platforms, pump up the sticky muddy-water-goo, ship it across the globe in huge supertankers, refine, crack and distill it through a massively energy-intensive industrial process then ship it in tankers to local distributors where it is held in tanks and pumped into our plastic bottles?

When we returned home from Southern California my water bill was waiting in my mailbox. For 8 "units" (5,984 gallons) of pure Oregon municipal tap water, I pay $22.88. This means that it cost me roughly $0.38 cents for 100 gallons of water.

Now of course there are trade-offs. Unlike gasoline which is consumed in my engine and gone forever; conversely, I only get to "use" my city provided water. A goodly amount of it is returned back to the city through an entirely separate set of pipes after flowing through my kidneys and other useful household appliances. So essentially, I have to pay the city for water TWICE. In addition the $22.88 the city charges me for delivering water to my house, they charge an additional $18.70 for "Waste water", $5.48 for "Storm Water" and a $1.36 "Transportation Maintenance Fee". (I guess pipes are not entirely reliable for getting water from one place to the other; perhaps they have to call a "water taxi" occasionally.)

Still, compared to Fiji water, my municipal water is a whopping bargain. Had I instead chosen last month to water my lawn, filled my spa and flush my toilet with Fiji water, it would have cost me $131,648.00 !

Okay, so water in Southern California is likely somewhat more expensive than here in Oregon where we, on the other hand, get free lawn irrigation pretty much the entire months from October through May. However It didn't really dawn on me just how crucial water conservation must be to Southern Californians until until I stepped into the bathroom in our motel room and took a picture of the bath tub.


Gorilla Bananas said...

I'm sure the Fiji people will say their water has a magic ingredient that keeps your balls healthy, making it a scarcer resource than oil (which is bad for the gonads). So you prefer taking a bath to a shower?

Artist and Geek said...

I'm not sure that kidney filtered tap water sounds that appealing, despite frequent contributions.

MacDougal Street Baby said...

It's not about water conservation. It's about appealing to a shallow clientele, don'tchaknow?

The Mother said...

Let us not forget that most bottled water is tap water at the factory, filtered. And for this we pay enormous prices AND get to subject ourselves to BPA.

(Not me. I only buy diet coke. 'Cause that's not loaded with chemicals or anything.)

DJan said...

Not to mention the incredible damage to the planet wreaked by the plastic that holds those precious drops of Fiji gold. Somebody is making a killing, and it isn't the consumer. Well thought out article, Robert. I was a bit taken aback by that bathtub. How does one use it except for a shower?

PeterDeMan said...

Robert, I live in Zephyrhills, Florida. Z'Hills is the home of "Zephyrhills Brand Natural Spring Water." However it may not come from Zephyrhills. Nestles is now the owner of Zhills water. Following are some excerpts of some research I just did.

It may not even be "natural spring water," it may be well water. Better read the fine print.

Zephyrhills water might come from the spring in Pasco, but it also can come from Madison or Washington counties in North Florida.

A shopper at a Publix in St. Petersburg can find gallon containers of Deer Park and Zephyrhills natural spring waters on the same shelf. What the shopper can't tell is that the Deer Park water was bottled in Pasco County, at the same plant — and with the identical water — as the Zephyrhills brand.

Nestle and other large bottling corporations take advantage of a Food and Drug Administration labeling loophole that allows bottlers to classify well water as natural spring water.

McClellan, the Nestle spokesman, says the public should be assured the water from the well is the same water in the spring itself.

"It has to have the same mineral content," McClellan said. "We do that without impacting the spring itself."

Call it natural spring water. Call it artesian water. Call it well water.

"Water has a number of names," Stevenson said. "If it's coming out of a spring basin, it's essentially spring water."

Kevin Keller, a professor of marketing at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, said he believes most consumers are unaware of the different sources for Nestle's water products, even if it is on the label.
More information than you probably wanted, but there ya go. Interesting. We take our water from the tap, put it into a filtered receptacle, and that's that.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Bananas Now really, my jungle friend... isn't that one of the more personal of questions one primate could ask another? From the size of that miniature bath tub you can probably deduce.

Artist Quite so, that is why the city charges me to dispense of my kidney-filtered water through their waste water system; A service I gladly pay for as well.

StreetBaby Oh indeed. I didn't include in my article the Penn and Teller "Bullshit" series they did on bottled water. They slam that practice as only they can.

DJan I wonder how many floating "islands" of plastic bottles are floating off the coast or washing up on the pristine beaches of Fiji?

Peter Nestle is notorious for aggressively getting into the bottled water business. One of my blogger buddies, Murr took this issue on much better than I did in her blog recently. She is a damn good read!!

Deinol said...

To be fair, that's the hotel convenience price for Fiji. It doesn't normally cost $2 for a can of coke, but that was the price for drinking one from the mini fridge at the hotel we last stayed at. At least there was a convenient Walgreens just a few blocks away for reasonable restocking.

I do agree that bottled water is bad for the environment. If you must drink it, please be sure to recycle.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Deinol I can assure you I recycle both the container AND the water.

Rain said...

dang. Now I'll have to find my best of Marty Robbins album and this will be going through my head all day!

PeterDeMan said...

Sorry to barge back in Robert, but this got me thinking of the couple who hosted our wedding reception in Sand Point, Oklahoma. This was 1965. Long time ago. Retired from the Air Force, Brownelle had started a water company that served the entire area, and kept growing. For over three decades he would preach to anyone who would listen as to the importance of water, constantly saying, "water will become more valuable than oil." Very prescient. $5.50 for a quart of water. Indeed.

Artist and Geek said...

Certain companies simply filter tap water and bottle it. Others do use natural spring sources with healthy minerals intact.

The bigger picture: We have always carried portable water. Glass bottles on average can be cleaned and re-used 50 times. Then melted and recycled. Environmental damage considerably less than plastic.
What is the energy cost of recycling waste water? What is the environmental cost of adding chlorine? How cheap is manufacturing and transporting light weight plastic bottles?

Consumer beware, don't believe everything you're told.

Just a thought...and some questions.

Marylinn Kelly said...

By what definition is that a bathtub? Interesting, the calculations of water vs. gasoline, bottled vs. municipal supplies. In South Pasadena our tap water tastes awful and somehow makes you thirstier. One wonders, again, about conspiracies.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Rain My favorite Marty Robins song is "El Paso".

Peter The privatization of water supplies throughout the world will soon become the next intrusion of private industry into our human rights. Global Climate change is shrinking glacial supplies of water in many countries. Private industry will supply the dwindling water... but at a price. Stay tuned.

Artist Glass has been abandoned as the cleaning process is costly and, guess what, "uses water"! It is cheaper to crush the glass and recycle it into new bottles.

Recycling waste water is fairly inexpensive. Chlorine dissipates from water into the air fairly quickly when exposed to air. Precious little chlorine, if any, ends up in the environment.

The largest cost for bottled water is transportation.

Marylinn I remember the awful taste of Southern California water when we used to visit our relatives in Santa Monica when I was a kid. I almost could not drink it. My aunt and uncle used to have one of those big jugs of Crystal Springs water in one of those old water cooler dispensers. They even had the little paper cups to drink it from. I thought it was cool back then. They had a swimming pool as well.

Orhan Kahn said...

This wasn't exactly the clip I was looking for but its funny how easily some people can be fooled into the wonderful world of water. We most certainly take alot of things for granted in the Western world and water is right up there on the list with the things we most take for granted.

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-I get your point, but there is a bigger picture. I hope it's okay to elaborate. Advance apologies but I must, after all "it's a free country" ;)

Chlorine is just one example and it does require some time if you don't want to drink it. There are significant problems with medication ending up in our rivers and water supply. Most cities are not able to "filter" out e.g. antibios, hormones etc. Pollution in many forms is one reason, less males are being born.

Depending where you live, age of pipes etc tap water can be cleaner or dirtier than bottled water. (Also depends on the bottled water). How it's cleaned, what chemicals are used is usually not public record.

Water will become a commodity in some areas, but the conservation measures that I've been waiting for, have yet to be implemented. Personally, I would like my shower/bath water to be put through a simple filter and end up in my toilet tank. Don't mean to be graphic, but the thought of flushing drinkable water down the drain is abhorrent.

The fact remains that our bodies and environments are overloaded with heavy metals, but we lack the essential minerals we used to get out of soil and food and natural spring water. Take those elements out of water and watch your salt craving go up and your immune system go down. Tap or bottled alike.

Personally, I want plastic bottles and BPA (originally a hormone replacement), banned and the glass alternative back.

Passionate topic, but I can't plead ignorance. I'll stop before I start giving unsolicited advice (Won't be offended if you choose to remove this comment.)

Artist and Geek said...

Sigh. I think I need a blog.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Artist You are correct, antibiotics in the water supply due to people dumping medications down the toilet. Granted.

Yes, recycling "greywater" to irrigation, toilet flushing, is a laudable goal. Many industrialized nations flush potable water down down the toilet, not good.

I don't edit/delete intelligent and thoughtful counter opinions.

Yes, you appear to be an intelligent and literate person, I strongly encourage you to initiate your own blog! Let me know when you do.

GutsyWriter said...

Okay, okay, okay. I live in CA, and heard the CEO of Fiji water, who alos happens to be the CEO of Cutie tangerines, pistachios and POM, the drink speak at the Newport Beach library. She's in her 60's, without a wrinkle in sight. She explained how the plastic bottles of Fiji, are made from #7, the best plastic in the world, unlike Costco water bottles, that might give us cancer.Anyway, we've paid for her face lift, millions of times over. She was a great speaker though and has offered many educational gifts, like college fees paid for her farm workers' kids.

Murr Brewster said...

You know, there are people who will pay a hundred bucks for something they wouldn't pay five bucks for. And I think these people should have the hell taxed out of them, just because.

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-thank you. The newly discovered blogging community has been unexpectedly encouraging and supportive.
Either that or most diplomatically telling me to get off theirs and get my own. One can never be certain.

Artist and Geek said...

Murr, I agree. Junk food and fast food are at the top of that list.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Gutsy This brings up an interesting contradiction; is it ethical to use money derived from questionable means to pay for worthy causes? Do drug cartels provide a service by employing people and giving them a lucrative income? Are people harmed by choosing to overpay for a commodoty? Are losses of American job overall beneficial because they raise the living standards in poorer countries? These questions have no clear answer.

Murr I agree, but contrary to popular myth (and Lottery advertising) the wealthy don't blow their money. Bet you $5 that Donald Trump drinks out of the tap.

Artist Does it matter either way? I'd read your blog.

Artist and Geek said...

Robert-thanks, and as soon as I get over my on-line privacy, security and copyright issues, your thoughts on mine will be much appreciated.

P.S. I'll bet you a thousand he doesn't. They're gold plated. ;)

secret agent woman said...

The last hotel I stayed in had a complimentary bottle of water which they urged me to drink so it could be added to the tab. Yeah - that's what the tap is for.

Robert the Skeptic said...

SecretAgent Sometimes it seem that it's our wallets that these outfits are most interested in tapping.

Snowbrush said...

I'll plan on taking my own water along when I'm next down that way. Oh, and my own bathtub too. Then again, maybe I'll just stay home.