Bottled water is the greatest fraud in the whole history of food fetishism

Roger Scruton

Every now and then we winos take a day off from our strenuous duties in order to taste the substance of which we are 90 per cent composed. Instead of relying on our alcohol intake to biodegrade into water, we imbibe the stuff directly. It really is rather good, and I recommend it. However, water is a far from innocent commodity, and before going over the top the aspiring hydrophile needs to take stock of some important facts.

First fact: the world is running out of water. Whole areas are now subject to regular drought, our own aquiferous west wind is weakening, and the art of attracting rain by dancing, as practised by Saul Bellow's Henderson, is dying out. The streams and ponds of Scrutopia dried up this summer, causing us to wonder what it will be like in Iraq when the Euphrates does likewise.

Second fact: as that example shows, water is a serious cause of political tension, and will
in due course become a casus belli, as states extract more and more water from rivers of which other states lie downstream. This is the situation between Turkey and Iraq, Israel and Lebanon, Sudan and Egypt, and many more.

Third fact: an even greater environmental catastrophe awaits us on account of the absurd habit of treating water as a luxury product, branded, ponced up and sold to the trivial and the gullible. Admittedly, water should be taken in small doses, for medicinal reasons only. But this does not make it into a luxury. The bottled-water industry is probably the greatest fraud to have been perpetrated in the whole history of food fetishism, and one that depends upon the kind of narcissistic health fad that is among the most unattractive features of Generation X. The water in those bottles is neither better for you nor sweeter-tasting than the water from the tap. And the cost of extracting it, bottling it, transporting it and putting it on sale is a fraction of what you pay.

Fourth fact: the real cost is not what you pay in any case. The real cost of bottled water is externalised by the villains who produce it, in the form of a non-biodegradable plastic bottle, a piece of immortal rubbish that will end up in a ditch or a hedgerow, will clog a river or pollute a lake or, in the best case, take up precious and unrenewable space in a landfill site. The cost of this, when multiplied by the many millions of such bottles sold each day, is not merely unsustainable, but ruthlessly dumped on unborn generations. Given this fact, you are under a positive moral obligation not to drink bottled water, and to lobby the government to force those who sell it to take back their empty bottles and swallow them whole.

Meanwhile, if you must drink from a bottle, drink wine.

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