Is Bottled Water As Convenient As We Think?

August 20, 2013 by Andrew Moorey

Elua_An Alternative to Bottled WaterABC News recently reported that 55% of Americans cited convenience as the strongest influences on their decision to drink bottled water. The Polaris Institute has stated that 71% of Canadians who drink bottled water do so for the sake of convenience. But is bottled water really convenient?

Having come from the bottled water industry, I know better than most the ridiculous amount of resources and logistics that is required to bottle water and get it on to store shelves. But what happens between the store shelf and your lips?

Half Litre Bottles

Let’s start by looking at half litre bottled water purchased by the case at grocery and big box stores. When we open the fridge and grab one of these bottles on our way to work or the gym or toss one into a lunch bag, it seems absolutely brilliant doesn’t it? More convenient than sliced bread right? But what needed to happen to get that bottle of water into the fridge so it was ready for harvest just when you needed it?

  • You open the fridge door one day to find it empty of bottled water. You utter your favourite curse and scribble it on the grocery list. You gulp down some chlorinated tap water and grab $5 so you can buy a couple of overpriced bottles from the vending machine at work.
  • You get home, open the fridge door and realize that you forgot to stop at the grocery store on your way home. You repeat Step 1.
  • While at the grocery store, your cart with the wobbly wheel and sticky handle struggles under the load of 4 cases of water which weighs 108 lb. As you round the frozen food aisle, everything shifts and you fresh loaf of French bread becomes Pita bread.
  • It takes 4 trips, one case at a time to get the water into your house. Three go in the basement and one gets unpacked into the fridge. You realize that your back is not going to thank you tomorrow morning.
  • Thankfully you remember to empty out the recycling bin which is overflowing with plastic water bottles because tomorrow is recycling pick up day.
  • Drift off to sleep wondering why you are so stressed out and when your world started to revolve around bottled water.

18.9 L Bottles and Water Coolers

Heavy load of bottled waterWhat about a water cooler? The kind with the big bottles on top that dispense ice cold water at the touch of a button? Bottled water on tap right? What could be more convenient than that. Heck, those big bottles of water might even be delivered right to your door like the old milkman. But what needs to be done to keep that water cooler gurgling with spring fed goodness on demand?

  • It’s Sunday afternoon, friends are on their way over for dinner when you find out that the extra bottle in the porch is empty not full. Your next automatic delivery isn’t for another 3 days. You slice up an entire cucumber into a pitcher of tap water but can still smell the chlorine.
  • On Monday your family calls for action and you are sent out to the grocery store for water. At 45 lb. each, you lift two bottles into the cart, out of the cart, into your trunk, out of your trunk and careen into the house, bouncing one bottle off the door frame. After a quick pinch of the fingers while loading the bottle onto the cooler, you are ready for a “drink”.
  • On Tuesday you wake up to find a small flood on the floor and after a few phone calls, learn that small cracks in the bottle can cause air to leak into the bottle resulting in a loss of pressure and water overflowing the internal reservoir in the water cooler. There is nothing you or they can do to prevent it, it just happens. Good to know.
  • On Wednesday, you get home to find 2 new bottles of water on your step. You forgot to call and cancel the delivery. Because you didn’t leave out any empty bottles for the driver, you were charged another $20 in bottle deposits and now your porch is overflowing with bottles.
  • On Thursday you call your water company complaining of a funny taste in the water. They ask when was the last time the cooler was cleaned and sanitized. You say “huh?”
  • An hour later, you finally get through the cleaning process and get the water cooler back together. You wonder how you are going to find time to do it every few months as recommended.
  • On Friday, while helping the kids with their homework, you learn about different plastic codes and that the bottles for your water cooler are #7 and probably contain BPA.
  • On Saturday as you and the family are heading out to the beach, your mom calls and asks if you can come over to load a new bottle of water onto their cooler because they ran dry a few days ago and the bottle is too heavy for her.

Is bottled water actually convenient or is it simply a perceived convenience?

The short time that it takes to drink a bottle of water or draw a glass of water from a water cooler might indeed be convenient but what about the work, complications and logistics that it takes to support our bottled water habit before and after that brief moment?

Do you believe bottled water is convenient? Is convenience the primary reason that you buy bottled water? Do you have a funny story about the “inconvenience” of bottled water? We’d love to hear from you! Please post a comment below.

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