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If you're like three out of four Americans, you probably have a bottle of water sitting on your desk, tucked in your gym bag, or rattling on the floor of your car.
Last year, we bought more than 4 billion gallons of water in single portion bottles, nearly 28 gallons for each of us. Many of us think bottled water is not only convenient, but better for us than plain old tap water.
Studies show nearly 40 percent of bottled water comes not from mountain glaciers or crystal springs, but from public water supplies. Purity and safety standards for bottled water aren't as stringent as those for tap water. So, if you think you're drinking healthier when you swig from a bottle, think again.
Here in St. Louis, tap water is the clear winner. The city's water was just declared the best in the nation, taking top honors for taste, clarity and aroma. And, at 1 1/2 cents for 10 gallons, it's about 5,000 times cheaper than bottled water.
Yet our unquenchable thirst for convenience is taking a toll on the environment. The production of those little plastic bottles consumes 47 million gallons of oil a year - enough to fuel 100,000 cars. Add in the oil required to transport all that heavy water, and you start to understand why more cities, churches, schools, restaurants and businesses are banning bottled water.
Nerinx Hall High School recently pulled water bottles from its vending machines. The City of St. Louis plans to stop supplying bottled water for city employees, hoping the private sector will follow suit.
Next time you're thirsty, how about just turning on the tap?
(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)
Liz Forrestal is Executive Director for Missouri Votes Conservation, a non-profit that advocates for pro-environmental legislation in Missouri. She also participates in a number of community environmental groups, and is a board member of Audubon Missouri.