Holy Hydration, Batman! Florida’s Exporting Water!

Just heard this on NPR, of course. A very large proportion of our most popular brands of bottled water comes from Florida. The bottlers pay a minuscule fee for the right to pump it. Then, of course, they put it into plastic bottles which ultimately end up in landfills. Now the sovereign state of Florida wants to tax the water, and the bottlers are very upset.

What NPR doesn’t mention is that Florida is running out of fresh water. The notion of Florida as a desert is a bit mind-boggling, of course, and that isn’t exactly what’s happening. Florida is surrounded on three sides by water, after all.

Salt water.

Which, as the fresh water is pumped out of the aquifers, gets pulled in to replace it. This is not good for the local flora, including many important farm crops, like tomatoes and citrus. Most Floridians didn’t start worrying about this till about ten years ago (my aunt, of blessed memory, was keeping an eye on the situation thirty years back, being a birder and environmental activist.) A couple of years ago, Florida was hit by a drought so severe that weeds on the dried-out bottom of Lake Okeechobee (Florida’s largest source of fresh water) caught fire.

I had known about the drought, and the salt water intrusion into the water table, and the periodic fires in the Everglades (I remember those from when I was a kid.) I had not known that, through all this, Florida was actually exporting fresh water, and doing it for a mere pittance. It’s particularly annoying here in Illinois (which, along with the rest of the Great Lakes states, has recently been characterized as the Saudi Arabia of water.) Dasani (marketed at and by McDonald’s), Zephyrhills (Perrier/Dannon—both foreign companies), Crystal River, and several other nationally popular brands turn up on our shelves, when fresh water is one of the few things Illinois has more than enough of, and Florida is running out. Not to mention the landfill burden caused by the bottles.

My aunt is no doubt spinning in her grave.

So let’s quit with this bottled water nonsense. If you really worry about the quality of your tap water, filter it, or distill it the way the Wired family does (run the still every night, and have perfectly good water by morning. Sears carries an excellent line of distillers. But for some reason, distilled water does not cause whistling teakettles to whistle. Anybody out there have an explanation?) Most of the crud in your tap water probably comes from the pipes in your house, not from the public water system. But if your pipes are more than thirty years old, that’s probably a good reason to filter or distill. It is not a good reason to turn Florida into a salt desert and fill up all your local landfills with plastic bottles.

Red Emma

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