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Reporters Lapping Up H20 News


Near as I can tell, the craze started in San Francisco. In June, the city's mayor ordered in that municipal employees no longer be given bottled water, which the city was shelling out almost half a million dollars a year for. His ruling set in motion a media backlash against the ubiquitous bottles that still seems to be growing.

Newspapers and TV news have regularly run stories about possible contamination in bottled water, its inexplicably high price, and, oh yeah, the fact that sometimes it's just plain old tap water. But the past two months have seen journalists piling up on bottled water stories like never before, driven on by news of other cities taking steps against the wasteful habit and the announcement that PepsiCo was caving to advocate pressure and adding P.W.S., for "public water source," to its bottles of Aquafina.

 

Stories have popped up with headlines such as "A Battle Between the Bottle and the Faucet,” "Bottled Water Industry At a Tipping Point,” "Advocates Hope to Turn Tide Against Bottled Water,” and "Water, Water Everywhere, but Guilt by the Bottleful.” Some address the environmental cost of bottling water in Fiji to fly it thousands of miles to New York, while others dicuss the amount of waste produced by so many discarded bottles. It's admirable that reporters are now taking a critical look at the trend. People living in New York and San Francisco enjoy some of the cleanest public water on the planet, and it's worth calling out people who pay for a mostly unnecessary product that also comes at a high environmental cost.

But after all the column inches and screen minutes devoted to countering the common perception of guilt-free, healthy bottled water, I can't help but wonder if there are more pressing concerns the media could be tackling. For starters, what about a campaign to raise national gas mileage standards? Wouldn't that be more worthy than "a movement against bottled water"? If this amount of journalistic energy is what it takes to debunk a myth, reporters could find many more worthy enterprises than this if they truly want to afflict the comfortable.