In the UK, in the last decade or so many of us have been converted to drinking bottled water. Personally I have resisted for years but now, even I hardly ever travel without one. This easy access to water is probably good for us, though we seem to have survived for centuries on tea, beer and the occasional glass of water.
My personal resistance to adopting bottled water was largely based on the premise that: there is nothing wrong with tap water, particularly if it's filtered; single use plastic bottles are not at all environmentally friendly; transporting water between countries and inside the destination country is insane both environmentally and financially.
A view shared by others it seems, as a social enterprise, tapwater.org has been set up to address these problems. They have come up with the Lifebottle, which is supported by a national network of free refill points. The Lifebottle is a double walled, high grade (304) stainless steel, bottle for life. It fits the bottle holders in my bag and in my car and has totally replaced my need for plastic water bottles. The rolled stainless lip on the neck of the bottle is nicer to drink out of and the water stays remarkably cool. This ability to keep the contents fresh is one of the real plus points of the Lifebottle and is achieved by the vacuum between the double walls. I have tested the maker's claims of keeping drinks cool for up to 20 hours and can confirm that this ability exceeded expectations. I have left mine in full sun in my car for days and still had cool drinkable water afterwards. Try that with commercial bottled water. I also took it travelling and my water stayed cool, fresh and pleasant at all times even in temperatures of 30ºC+ (86ºF+).
It is this ability to keep water cool that makes the difference between drinking bottled water and tap water really insignificant. National surveys have shown that most people can't tell the difference between bottled water and mains tap water and this is particularly true if it's served cool.
At this point I know many of you will be thinking: but is my tap water as safe as bottled water? isn't it partly recycled? doesn't it contain more fluoride? and a dozen other questions.* The quick answer is that the UK has some of the safest water in the world and is very well regulated for both quality and taste. At home you can safely fill your Lifebottle from the kitchen tap. If you don't like the taste of your local water, try using a water filter or putting it in a jug in the fridge overnight.
When you are away from home you can refill your Lifebottle for free at any one of the national network of refilling points (several other countries have similar schemes). Look out for the blue logo;you will be amazed how many there are. Even the cafe here at the Sustainability Centre is on the scheme, and if you have an iPhone you can download an app to guide you.
The Lifebottle has other advantages too; the cap contains a storage compartment for effervescent taptabs so you can flavour your water if you wish or you can use it to store money, tablets, vitamins, whatever you like. An accessory stainless steel ice stick is also available, which, if put in your freezer overnight, can keep your drink really cool for hours the next day. So, if like me you think the financial and environmental costs of bottled water are just too high, stop being part of the problem, be part of the solution: get a Lifebottle.
* See: www.tapwater.org/faqs
The Lifebottle, price £16 including UK p&p, is available from www.green-shopping.co.uk