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One-third of Canadians buy bottled water

Almost one-third of Canadians are opting to purchase bottled water for home consumption, despite the fact that they...


Almost one-third of Canadians are opting to purchase bottled water for home consumption, despite the fact that they could get their water much more cheaply from their kitchen tap.

This is according to a new study released by Statistics Canada on June 25, 2008. Canadians are drinking more bottled water than in the past, says “Against the flow: What households drink bottled water?” The International Council of Bottled Water Associations estimates that in 2000, 820 million litres of bottled water were produced for Canadian consumption. By 2003, that figure jumped to almost 1.5 billion litres. Along with those litres of water comes an environmental price tag of over 70 million plastic water bottles, bound for landfills or recycling processing.

Across all age groups and income levels, 29 per cent of Canadians are opting to drink bottled water in the home. But the affinity for bottled water among high-income households is driven primarily by those households where no one has a university education.

Among households with a income over $91,000, 44 per cent in the “high school” category and 38 per cent in the “some post-secondary” category drank bottled water. This compares to only 29 per cent in the same income group with at least one member who had completed a university degree.

Similarly, in the second highest income group, 41 per cent of households where all members were in the “less than high school” group drank bottled water compared to 26 per cent of households with at least one member who has completed a university degree.

“It is possible that university graduates are more aware of the environmental issues surrounding bottled water,” says the study. “They may also be more skeptical of the claims that bottled water is a healthier choice than tap water.”

The age group the least likely to turn to a water cooler instead of the kitchen faucet is seniors only 17 per cent of seniors-only households use bottled water in the home. The study notes this point may be based on the fact that seniors have not had ready access to bottled water all of their lives unlike younger Canadians. Or it could be related to income, since 75 per cent of seniors-only households earn less then $40,000 annually.

The study suggests that Canadians may be choosing bottled water over tap water for several reasons, including increased convenience, taste preferences, concerns over tap water quality and ongoing marketing by the bottled water industry.

But can convenience really be a factor, in the home? After all, is it any more convenient to walk to the fridge or water cooler than it is to walk to the tap?

For those who don’t like the taste of tap water, due to chlorine used to treat the water, carbon activated water filters can be a solution — with a much lower environmental footprint and price tag.

Ontario’s tap water is safe, says Chief Drinking Water Inspector

Tap water quality concerns in Canada should also be dispelled. The Statistics Canada study was released on June 25, 2008, right on the heels of the Ontario’s Chief Drinking Water Inspector’s Annual Report. Key results from water quality tests from municipal residential drinking water systems conducted from April 1, 2006 to March 31, 2007 show that Ontario’s health-based standards for drinking water were met in 99.83 per cent of tests. Testing showed 99.4 per cent of non-municipal year-round systems were in compliance with the standards, while 99.49 per cent of the results from testing on systems serving designated facilities show that Ontario’s standards were being met.

More than 80 per cent of Ontarians get their water from municipal residential drinking water systems. The province’s Ministry of the Environment inspected all 707 municial residential drinking water systems and 92 per cent received an operational performance inspection rating of 90 per cent or better. But even a low rating doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is unsafe. An operational performance inspection can also show areas where the operation or administrative procedures can be improved. The ministry’s goal is to achieve 100 per cent compliance for all systems in the province 40 per cent of the systems achieved 100 per cent compliance.

The Statistics Canada study notes it only examined bottled water consumption in the home, and suggests the results are likely underestimated, since figures for bottled water usage at work or while on the go were not included. Choosing bottled water over, say, the local mall’s public water foundation may be a more justifiable choice, but the bottom line seems to indicate that 29 per cent could easily reduce their environmental footprints by simply turning on their kitchen taps.

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