Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water (Review)

May 24, 2010

Book cover for "Bottled & Sold" by Peter H. Gleick.Title: Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession With Bottled Water

Author: Peter H. Gleick

Publication Year: 2010

Pages: 232

Genre: Non-Fiction

Source: E-book review copy from NetGalley

I seem to be on a bit of a food-ethics kick lately in terms of my non-fiction reading, and Bottled and Sold is no different. This book explains the history and current debates regarding the bottled water industry, particularly as it stands in the United States. Gleick tells us about the various arguments that have been made for the commercialization of water, as well as showing us the laws – and lack of laws – that govern its production and sale. The book is chock-full of examples and statistics, ensuring that each point made is backed up with fact, not just opinions.

Now, I’m not really a bottled-water person to begin with. I grew up living in a house on a concession road in a small town, and my family got all of our water from a well in our backyard. We always had at least a couple of those reusable plastic water bottles kicking around for baseball games and long days out in the sun, and we never really used disposable water bottles at all unless they were given to us by someone else (for example, my father and I would often umpire at tournaments where the organizers would supply us with bottled water to take onto the diamonds with us). It just wasn’t part of our lexicon, and I was always confused about why other people relied on bottled water so much; it never seemed logical to spend so much money for something that should have been free!

Bottled and Sold goes farther than the difference between free and paid-for water. I was surprised and appalled at some of the things that I learned about bottled water from reading this book. Did you know that in the States, while municipal water has to be tested multiple times and day, and problems reported to the public pretty much immediately, many bottled water companies aren’t even required to test their water once a month, and there is often no requirement at all for them to report problems to the public? Yeah. Neither did I. <shudder>

Gleick sums up the  main points of his book rather nicely in his closing words:

In the end, the debate about bottled water is really a debate about the value of water, human rights versus responsibilities, environmental priorities and protection, economic markets versus public goods, government intervention versus government reform, and more. If we are thoughtful, however, we will see bottled water for what it is – the result of a failure to provide satisfactory public water systems and services for everyone – and realize that our obsession with bottled water can be overcome if we address the reasons people seek it out.

Now I think I’ll go get a glass of tap water.

I really enjoyed Bottled and Sold, and I think that anyone who drinks bottled water (or who wants to know more about it regardless of whether they themselves drink it) should definitely read this book. While it was sometimes heavy on the statistics and overloaded with different examples, the overall message was definitely clear, insightful, and persuasive. If I wasn’t already a strong proponent of drinking tap water, this book would definitely have changed my mind to make me so. So go out, grab yourself a nice, free, safe glass of tap water, and be thankful that you live in a place where you don’t have to worry about how sick the water is going to make you on a daily basis. And make sure that you educate yourself and help us to work towards a world where that reality can be the experience of every single person, not just the privileged few.

Rating:

2 Comments

  • erisian23 May 25, 2010 at 10:19 am

    i would read this.
    have never been to that site, will have to check it out and see if i can get a hook up.

    ~~

    favorite bottled water quote is from that crappy movie “Reality Bites” when they are high in the gas station and one of them realized that “Evian backwards spells Naive”

    • Carina May 25, 2010 at 1:37 pm

      Heh. My favourite was learning that in the United States (and probably here, too, come to think of it) there are various water bottling companies – including big names like Dasani – that simply use local tap water.

      NetGalley is awesome, you should definitely take a look!

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