Today’s challenge was to drink more water, with the idea being that water would be tap water from a glass or reusable water bottle. Easy enough for me, as it’s my daily habit to carry a reusable water bottle and fill it from the tap or water fountains, but I think it’s important to consider that not everyone has the luxury of safe drinking water from the tap, even in a wealthy country like the U.S.
In one of the most publicized examples, residents in the city of Flint, Michigan, have been fighting for repairs to their water system for nearly five years just so they can have safe, uncontaminated water coming from their taps.
However, it’s important to remember that Flint is not an isolated problem. There are problems with drinking water systems in communities throughout the U.S., especially low-income communities and communities of color. Dozens of schools in Maryland use bottled water on a daily basis because testing shows elevated levels of lead in the water from drinking fountains. Other communities have experienced groundwater contamination from fracking or other industrial activity.
And that’s just the U.S. When I traveled to England in 2017 I brought my reusable water bottle and found virtually nowhere to fill it, and saw a few signs like the one in the picture above. Because of older water infrastructure, past issues with water safety, and cultural norms, bottled water has been the norm in my very limited European travel experience.
About 1 in 9 people worldwide lacks access to safe drinking water, according to one nonprofit.
So yes, waste from bottled water is certainly a problem and those who have access sustainable options should be encouraged to use them. But before we can really tackle that plastic problem, we need to invest in our infrastructure to ensure that everyone can drink from the tap without putting their health at risk.