05 February, 2007

Is Bottled Water a solution to Global Warming?

As natural drinking water supplies disappear dry up to lack of rain, people in particularly dry areas – like Stingraylia - may start thinking that they can simply replace tap water with bottled water.

No problems, mate… heaps of people do it all round the world, right...? Right. It's a fact that worldwide consumption of bottled water has more than doubled in 6 years.

But also dangerously WRONG - as you'll agree after you've read the fine print in the Earth Policy Institute's link just above.

Roller-coaster as metaphor for Climate Change?

Paradoxically, if more of the world’s population began switching to bottled water, it would severely increase global warming. The cure would be worse than the disease.

To give a small example: to bottle and ship only one year’s worth of water to the USA (at current usage levels), companies such as Pepsico and Danone burn 1.5 million barrels of oil (= enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year). Almost 90% of the plastic bottles (themselves a petro-chemical product) end up in landfills where they can take up to a thousand years to bio-degrade. This is clearly an absurd extravagance, especially when chemical analysis AND taste tests reveal no difference between tap water and bottled water - and some brands of bottled water can cost more per litre than gasoline.

These figures, remember, reflect current levels of bottling. If demand were to go sky-high over the next few years, this apparently neat bottled solution would actually begin to worsen our climate even more and hasten the coming catastrophe.

And then there’s the obvious question of “where do you find that quantity of clean water to bottle?” Underground water aquifers would need to be raided, with consequent water shortfalls for farmers, not to mention increasing levels of salination (salt rising). After all, the world is predicted to have 40% less rain by 2070. You can’t continue to suck up underground water in those circumstances… in fact, you would need to decrease the amount you suck up just to stay even.

Farmers in Si Saket province, Thailand, 2006, rescuing the remains of their flooded rice crop. Just because some places report floods does NOT mean that the world is safe from drought. It's an indicator of increasing climate disruption.

A general shift to bottled water is not a solution to Global Warming. It’s in the same lunatic category as the comedian's standard joke that Global Warming could be fixed if everyone on the planet left their fridge doors open for a day. Or opened the windows so the cool air-con could escape . . .

So. . . what’s a practical long-run answer? Simple enough, if you’re willing to admit the Emperor has no clothes. All the rain-water hasn't somehow "gone away"... what doesn't fall as rain is still stored right there in the sea. So quit pumping $$ into Iraq and spend it on de-salination and water-recycling plants… LOTS of them, and QUICKLY.

Bugger the cost - hey, it’s no use proudly owning the latest SUV if your family’s dying of thirst.

We must still urgently re-plant trees for a long-term answer for your children's children, but it's too late to rely on that now - a more urgent fix as is needed within 10 years. As environment groups have been saying for decades, Australia could have been at the forefront of de-salination/purification technology if only it had been a Clever Country. No amount of bragging will fill the pipes… nor will Dubya Ducklips Howard’s arrogant little band-aid 'fixes'... which are pathetically little, and tragically late.

Australia's very own Mr Magoo needs to put on his distance glasses and get his priorities right. Just yesterday, when asked about "how people might feel about a global temperature rise of between 4 and 6 degrees by the end of the century, he replied: "Well, it would be less comfortable for some than it is now”.

WOW!! How's that for complete non-comprehension (or, more likely, evading the issue and protecting coal industry jobs.... read: "votes in marginal electorates").

On this issue of jobs VS environment, see another of my earlier blogs here.

........and here are a few more funky pix:

The Coober Pedy Golf Course, in outback South Australia.
Not many birdies left here.

...and finally, the astroturf garden of the future:

The only drawback will be that you won't have a car to pull it.

Oi, oi, oi, the fights over bottled water are on already. Listen to this ABC Australia report about the brawl in one town in Victoria.

Update: (May 4, 2007). An outback town in Australia has run out of piped water, nor can it find enough trucks to deliver water. Its hospital is using bottled water to flush toilets, and the Old Folks Home is minimising the washing of patients. Time to stock up yet?

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