Something in the Water (Does Not Compute)

A recent study in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine got me thinking about perceptions -- and misconceptions -- when it comes to water.

According to the study, black and Latino parents are three times more likely than whites to give their children bottled water rather than tap; these buyers also spend 1% of their income on bottled water, versus white buyer's 0.4%.

This, in light of an Environmental Working Group report, which found only three of the nation's 170 brands of bottled water sold in the United States disclosed where the water came from, how it was purified and what contaminants remained in the water. An earlier study by The Natural Resources Defense Council found that 17% of bottled waters contained unsafe bacteria, and 22% were contaminated with chemicals -- including arsenic.

With scary statistics like these, why would anyone drink from a bottle? The decision may come down to marketing. As a recent Forbes article pointed out, companies like Coca Cola and Nestle are heavily invested in hawking water to minority groups.

And no wonder: The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that for each $1.50 bottle of water sold, the manufacturer pockets $.50 -- a significant margin. Bottled water costs very little to produce, yet very much to consume: An individual's five-year supply of bottled water can cost more than $1,000, versus $1.65 if she drank from the tap.

Yet my worry is that soon, we may have no other choice.

Official Wire disclosed last month that the House of Representatives passed a vote banning the EPA from overruling states on water quality decisions. Federal jurisdiction had most recently been used to limit mountaintop mining in West Virginia, and would have come into play as the unregulated practice of fracking -- extracting natural gas by fracturing rock beneath the earth's surface, which has been linked to groundwater pollution -- becomes more widespread, according to the Center for Public Integrity.

Clearly, environmental protections like the Clean Water Act are in jeopardy, as recently reported by Fast Company.

What's a concerned parent to do? Healthy Child created a checklist of quick tips to providing safe drinking water for your family. Support clean water activists like our Parent Ambassador Alexandra Cousteau, who will be honored with a Care2 Impact award at the Women in Green Forum this month. And keep an eye on your legislators.

Because clean water is a horrible thing to waste.