In a world where the fundamental right to clean water is increasingly under threat, the bottled water industry has emerged as a profitable entity, commodifying drinking water and raising concerns about accessibility and environmental sustainability. Valued at $300 billion, the global market for bottled water is dominated by four multinational corporations, contributing to over 600 billion single-use plastic beverage bottles ending up in the garbage each year.
Yet, bottled water remains a necessity for one third of the global population that lacks reliable access to safe drinking water. This issue is particularly prevalent in low-income communities and communities of color in the United States, where tap water is often contaminated with lead, arsenic, and other pollutants.
A Necessary Evil
In the United States, bottled water consumption is highest in low-income communities where access to safe drinking water is lacking. With tap water often contaminated, residents are forced to rely on bottled water as their primary source of hydration, spending up to 10% of their income on this essential commodity.
According to a report by the Natural Resources Defense Council, “The burden of contaminated water falls disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, where aging infrastructure and lack of investment in water systems have resulted in chronic problems with water quality.”
Water Racism and Indigenous Communities
The struggle for clean water is not unique to the United States. Indigenous communities in Canada, such as Six Nations of the Grand River, are also grappling with the effects of water racism and lack of access to clean potable water.
In some households, families are spending thousands of dollars annually on bottled water, a cost that is both financially burdensome and environmentally unsustainable.
“It’s a basic human right to have access to clean drinking water, yet many of our communities are forced to rely on bottled water due to the lack of safe drinking water,” says a spokesperson for the Six Nations of the Grand River.
The Need for Federal Reinvestment
According to a recent report by the US Water Alliance, massive federal reinvestment in water infrastructure is necessary to prioritize environmental justice communities and combat historical structural racism and infrastructure neglect.
“The only solution is to invest in our water infrastructure and ensure that every community has access to safe drinking water,” says Dr. Anna Jaffee, an expert in environmental justice and water policy.
By prioritizing the needs of communities that have been historically marginalized and neglected, the federal government can address the root causes of the bottled water crisis and ensure that access to clean water is a fundamental right for all.
In conclusion, the commodification of drinking water by the bottled water industry has raised concerns about access to clean water as a human right. With one third of the global population lacking reliable access to safe drinking water, the issue is particularly prevalent in low-income communities and communities of color in the United States, where tap water is often contaminated. The struggles faced by Indigenous communities in Canada due to water racism highlight the need for federal reinvestment in water infrastructure to prioritize environmental justice communities and combat historical structural racism and infrastructure neglect.
As the world grapples with the consequences of climate change and environmental degradation, it is more important than ever to prioritize access to clean water for all. By investing in our water infrastructure and addressing the root causes of the bottled water crisis, we can ensure that the fundamental right to clean water is upheld for generations to come.
The time for action is now. By working together, we can create a more just and sustainable future for all.