By Victoria Thomas
I jumped at the chance to intern for Adam Tank. One look at his LinkedIn profile and you’ll understand why. He’s pretty active on Twitter, as well.
There are many things I agree with my boss about: that the water industry is full of some of the nicest people, that street tacos are to die for, and that we’d love to see an Organica botanical garden wastewater treatment plant in the United States. However, when listening to the podcast he recorded with the Water Environment Federation I found one thing I hope he is very wrong about!
Adam believes distrust of publicly owned water systems is increasing due to stories like Flint, Michigan and fear of other contaminants, like PFAS, in the drinking supply. He predicts an increase of forking over hard-earned paychecks for plastic water bottles and jugs instead of drinking what’s often almost the same product, just without the fancy branding. As multiple friends and colleagues have sworn off single-use plastic due to my encouragement (badgering), I had a bone to pick with him about that sentiment.
It’s near impossible to ignore the multitude of public awareness campaigns surrounding the problems with plastic. Every stage of its life cycle is polluting the earth, including the energy needed to recycle it – if it ever makes it to the recycling bin (stats are it won’t). The saying is reduce, reuse, and then recycle for a reason!
Many corporations and countries are moving towards banning single-use plastics such as straws and bags. The European Parliament overwhelmingly approved a law banning many single-use plastic items by 2021. A town in Australia has completely banned plastic water bottles, and San Francisco has banned the sale of plastic bottles on city-owned property. Parks and cities are also doing a better job of advertising water bottle refilling stations. Glacier National Park put out a great map for campers, and a quick search will find many others. While the Beverage Marketing Corporation reports that bottled water consumption continues to rise as consumers turn to healthier alternatives over sugary sodas, I am hopeful that increasing environmental awareness leads consumers to the tap instead.
Despite scary headlines in the news, there are many good reasons to drink tap water. It’s as much as 4000% cheaper than bottled water, as safe or safer, and you can drink it out of sticker-covered reusable water bottles that show off your personality. There are frightening reports about water treatment not being able to remove many chemicals from the water supply. If you are concerned, install an at home water filter instead of switching to bottled. You’ll save more money in the long term and still reduce your single use of plastic consumption. Of course, if there is an actual emergency, always follow your local government’s recommendations on where to get your water.
Water utilities and the EPA need to communicate transparently and often with citizens about their water supply. I’m heartened to have found many innovative and engaging social media campaigns from water utilities. Take this campaign from Iceland extolling the delicious taste of Kranavatn water or tap water in Icelandic. Or American water utilities advertising their tap water as a key beer ingredient. My own water supplier, WaterOne, releases an easy to read water quality report every year. Chances are your water utility does too, and they probably even have a twitter!
I’m hopeful that Adam continues to be right about many things, such as Transcend’s potential to revolutionize engineering and hiring me as an intern 😉, but I’m counting on you as a consumer to help me prove my boss wrong and #choosetap.
Stay tuned for more thoughts on the water industry, as I learn from some of the industries brightest minds this summer working at Organica Water!