America convinced us to spend so much on water

  • 05.11.2022
  • VOX

Every now and again I catch an ad for miracle spring water, which promises to cure everything from laryngitis to debt. It’s fairly obviously a scam seeking to separate people from their hard-earned money. Then again, the same goes for the plastic water bottles people buy at the convenience store every day, or the box of water or can of water that promises to be more environmentally friendly but isn’t especially.

If you live in the United States, chances are that the water coming from your faucet is perfectly fine to drink (though there are, of course, some exceptions). The same goes for the glass that’s sitting in your kitchen cabinet to drink it from. So why have we spent decades buying it packaged up?

Some of us try to be more climate- and budget-friendly by using a metal tumbler, but if you’re anything like me, you probably have more of them than you need. (I’m not even sure how I’ve managed to accumulate so many of them — they seem to be On Trend in corporate swag.) And what about that filter you might have on your faucet? Do you know what it’s even filtering for, or whether that’s in your water? And when was the last time you changed the filter anyway?

“We’ve gotten here, step by step, down a dangerous road of converting a public resource into a private commodity,” said Peter Gleick, a scientist and expert on global water and climate and co-founder of the Pacific Institute, a research institution focused on water. “Water utilities don’t have advertising budgets; private companies do.”