don't drink bottled water

Love Chicago, Love the River, Love the Water … Don’t Drink Bottled Water


If you spent Saturday down by the river this weekend enjoying the St. Paddy’s Day dye job, or even if you didn’t, now is a great time to show our Chicago waterways some love.  And when you love your city’s water, you drink it.  Here’s why!

Chicago’s Drinking Water is Excellent

And we mean that literally.  The National Resource Defense Council gave Chicago a rating of Excellent for Water Quality and Compliance (the only one of their 19 surveyed cities) although only good on Right-to-Know Reports and Fair on Source Water Compliance.  Note: Chicago’s municipal water doesn’t come from the river, it comes from Lake Michigan.  Read the whole story of how we re-engineered the River to flow AWAY from our water sources in the early 20th century here.

excellent chicago water ndrc


More recently, this summer’s algal bloom scare in Michigan prompted Chicago’s Department of Water Management to re-test and re-certify Chicago’s water.  Drink up, folks.

Bottled Water is NOT Better for You

Here’s the thing.  If you’re worried that your municipal water isn’t sparkling clean enough for you … drinking bottled water doesn’t really mean you’re getting anything better.

Per Food and Water, bottled water is not only expensive and foolishly wasteful of energy to process and transport … its actually guaranteed to be safe to drink than water from your faucet.

“Tap water in the United States is subject to more stringent federal safety regulations than bottled water.”

That fact makes the following crazy fact a little more palatable (we guess).   At least 25% of bottled water comes from municipal sources anyway.  At least … that water is safer than the rest of it. Bottlers aren’t required to list the source of water on the label.  And speaking of labels – they don’t mean a thing.  The FDA allows ridiculous shenanigans with bottled water advertising language including one labeled Spring water” (with mountains and a lake on the label) which came from a site right next to a hazardous waste site which the FDA ruled “not misleading.”  Even though there ARE standards for labeling or cleanliness of bottled water … you don’t always know what they may be.  The same story details how

You’re better off taking a trip to your local water treatment plant where you can see the whole process in action and find out the facts for yourself!

Bottled Water is TERRIBLE for Everyone Else

Not to mention … its crazy expensive.  Americans pay more for bottled water (per gallon) than we do for gas.  We’ve all gotten used to the price of bottled water (somewhat in the manner of frogs slowly boiling) but it should be obvious that any industry that lucrative … is not all sweetness and light.  Clean water is not an infinitely available resource and we need to start treating it more carefully.

Sometimes the most outspoke “advocates” for valuing water are the bottled water companies, as this Guardian article points out.  Nestle chairman Peter Brabeck, has been making sweeping statements about how people don’t have a right to any more water than they need for survival unless they can pay for it.  He’s not wrong that we need to place more value on water and perhaps think differently about the substance that we drink at the table, vs flush toilets and wash cars with.  The bizzare nature of his argument becomes clear when you consider that AT THE SAME TIME, Nestle has been drawing water with impunity and no oversight from tribal lands over the aquifer near Palm Springs in the middle of California’s horrific drought at nearly no cost.  If water is truely so valuable, we ought to be regulating its extraction much more carefully.

The whole industry is wasteful from top to bottom and we don’t have to belabor the point.  Per Reader’s Digest:

A bottle that takes just three minutes to drink can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.

So … now is a great time to make a new commitment to avoid bottled water.  Carry a bottle, sure.  But fill it from your faucet (or filter pitcher, if you will) and enjoy Chicago’s very own water.