Bottlemania

Anyone who has ever been forced to take New Jersey transit on a holiday weekend probably can experience the frustration I endured coming back from the Jersey Shore yesterday afternoon. After my boyfriend asked me to buy him a bottle of water at the newsstand (for $3.50 no less) I remembered that I had a copy of Elizabeth Royte’s new book “Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It” stuffed in the bottom of my beach bag.

I dug it out and began reading it. I quickly learned that Americans spent nearly $11 billion dollars on bottled water in 2006 when we could have simply drunk tap water instead. Sales of bottle water grew a shocking 170 percent between 1997 and 2006. Globally it is a $60-billion-a-year business. Sales of bottled water have already surpassed sales of beer and milk in the United States and by 2011 are expected to surpass soda. How American is that?!

Even more troubling than the clever marketing that spurred the industry is the issue as to when, how and why access to safe and clean water became acceptable to market as a private commodity rather than be provided as a public good. In her book, Royte questions the environmental and social fallout of what we’re drinking. It has me worried about what’s next: Are we going to be charging for the quality of air we’re allowed to breathe (if so, we New Yorkers may be in big trouble)?

I was so engrossed in Royte’s funny engaging book that I have to say I was disappointed when we finally pulled into Port Authority and I had to put it down.

To read the New York Times Review of Royte’s book, click here. And to hear comedian Lewis Black’s hilarious take on bottled water click here.