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GOP leadership puts its efforts to fix immigration on hold. Also on the Friday rundown: Florida students take their gun control message to the Midwest; and a call for renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

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Report Charges Price Gouging by Bottled-Water Companies

According to a new report by Food and Water Watch, 70 percent of water bottles aren't recycled. (Mr.TinDC/Flickr)
According to a new report by Food and Water Watch, 70 percent of water bottles aren't recycled. (Mr.TinDC/Flickr)
March 7, 2018

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Cases of water bottles can be found cheap at big box stores, and that's prompting people to buy them as routinely as milk and bread. But a new report asks, what exactly are you paying for?

Food and Water Watch researchers look at the booming business of bottled water, which surpassed soda in sales in 2016. Its Take Back the Tap report found nearly 64 percent of bottled water comes from municipal taps - yet it costs almost 2,000-times as much as tap water, and four-times as much as gasoline.

Patty Lovera, food and water policy director with Food and Water Watch, said bottled water companies target advertising to specific demographic groups, especially immigrant communities.

"It is much more the norm in other countries where you have to go buy bottled water because the safety systems aren't there for tap water. That's not the case in most American cities,” Lovera said. “That's pretty predatory, to convince people they need to keep spending their hard-earned money to do that, and undermining people's confidence in tap water."

Bottled water companies argue their water actually is safer.

The report also found about 70 percent of bottles aren't recycled and 4 billion pounds of plastic were used to produce bottles in 2016. That's enough to fill the Empire State Building 1.3 times.

Even though most tap water systems are safe, Lovera said the country's water infrastructure is in need of maintenance, especially in such places as Flint, Mich., and that federal funding is the best avenue for maintenance. She acknowledged it can be difficult to get support for this idea.

"It's hard to build that political will if people think that you buy water at the grocery store, and you just have to go take care of it that way,” she said. “We kind of undermine this sense of ownership and accountability for having a tap water system that works for everybody."

There are other industry concerns about the plastic bottles. Most are polyethylene terephthalate bottles, which are generally safe - unless the water is stored in warm or hot temperatures. To avoid buying repackaged tap water, experts recommend looking for products labelled artesian water, well water or spring water.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN