Bottled water is worse for the environment than filling your own reusable bottle. That's probably not a new concept for you. If you care for the environment you're likely familiar with the bottling industry's contributions to the plastic waste problem and the exploitative practices of corporations like Nestle.
But there's something about bottled water you may not have considered. Particularly the harm caused by bottling SPRING water.
If you find yourself in a situation where you must sheepishly purchase a bottle of water, here's some guidance, and we'll tell you why.
1. Bottled spring water is more damaging to the environment than other bottled waters.
It was a little-noticed report on the bottled water industry, published by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in 2021, that brought this to our attention. In that report, we saw that:
Per gallon, bottling spring water directly from Ginnie Springs causes 900 times more impact to the spring than other withdrawals in the same spring basin
The reason is this - extracting directly from the spring, or "from the source," focuses the entire impact of the operation on that one spring system
Bottling companies know this, but continue to extract from the spring for higher profits. They can mark up the price with the "spring water" label on the bottle because they have convinced the public that spring water is somehow different, somehow better.
"Spring" water is not better, it's just more profitable to the bottling company, and is more damaging to the source spring.
Dive Deeper: The numbers behind Bottled Spring Water
The total amount of water used by public supply in the greater Ginnie Spring basin is around 253 million gallons per day.
The total amount permitted for extraction at Ginnie Spring for bottling is much smaller, around 1 million gallons per day.
BUT, extracting directly from the spring, which bottling companies do so they can put "Spring Water" on the label, focuses all the impact on that one spring system.
The bottling operation at Ginnie Spring is causing over THREE TIMES as much loss of flow at the spring as the water taken from the entire basin for public supply.
2. Bottled SPRING water isn't healthier
It is a triumph of marketing that has convinced us that choosing SPRING water is better for us than tap or purified water. Perhaps it could have been, before we polluted our springs with nitrates from fertilizers and animal and human waste. Below is a graph produced by the Florida Springs Institute showing the results of testing for nitrates in bottled spring water from Florida. While these levels are within the range considered safe for drinking water by the EPA, they do show that nitrates in the springs end up in your bottled spring water.
By the way, we most DEFINITELY do not recommend drinking water you bottle yourself from a spring vent. Even bottled spring water is filtered and tested. Not only elevated nitrates, but coliform bacteria and other runoff from the land surrounding the spring will make their way to the aquifer beneath the spring and could be be present in the spring's water, even at the spring vent. The image of spring water as "pure" is simply not true - the water in the aquifer below reflects the pollution filtering into it from the land above before it ever reaches the spring vent.
What Florida springs are affected by bottling?
Nine springs are associated with bottled water: Cypress Spring, Gainer Spring Group, Hays Springs, Apopka Spring, Orange Springs, Ginnie Spring, Madison Blue Spring, Wekiva Springs (in Levy County), and Crystal Springs (in Pasco County).
What can you do about bottling in Florida's Springs?
Use a reusable water bottle.
If you have to buy bottled water, pay attention to the label. Don't buy bottled spring water.
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Donate to the springs legal fund - we're fighting the bottling permit at Ginnie Springs in court. We'll send you a sticker (perfect for your re-usable water bottle!) as a thank you gift.