File photo: INLSA
File photo: INLSA

#WaterCrisis: Bottling water will not stop its waste but add to pollution

By Letter Time of article published Jan 29, 2018

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In response to Western Cape Premier Helen Zille’s plea to SAB Miller about providing bottled water for the crisis (Cape Times, January 23): It is imperative that water users everywhere, not just the drought-stricken Western Cape, realise that using less water is more than simply reducing what we use on a daily basis.

It is about consumption. Ignorance about the hidden water used in the bottled water industry, for example, is bound to hasten the looming disaster, as Zille proposes that SAB bottle 12 million litres of water to help address the water crisis in Cape Town.

Ironically, this will waste even more water, as we in effect will be polluting and using 96 million litres of water in production of the 12 million litres. It takes seven to eight litres to make every litre of bottled water.

So essentially eight litres of clean water is wasted through the manufacture of the plastic bottles, and not only that - there is pollution of water in the process.

The real solution lies not in bottling but rather in getting people to provide their own storage containers and provide stations for people to fill.

The story of the plastic bottle also doesn’t end here - most of us are very aware of the problems linked with sea and water pollution, as plastic always ends up in the ocean - the Pacific and Indian Oceans are garbage patches and the impact on marine eco-systems has been well documented and highlighted in the press.

The issue cuts deeper into consumption, too. Did you know that it takes 2700 litres to make a hamburger, 10 500 litres to make a pair of jeans, 10 litres to make one A4 piece of paper?

So taking short showers, flushing only when necessary, certainly helps, but if we continue consuming at the rate we do and eating high on the food chain, the whole country, not just Cape Town, is doomed to a dire water situation forever.

So what can be done? Understanding the depth of the issue is key here and being empowered to do something is even more critical, and that’s where education is essential in "turning the corner".

The International Water Explorer Programme has just been launched in the Western Cape; it is not a luxury add-on education programme but rather an emergency intervention strategy.

With a successful four years of delivery internationally and in KZN, Phase 2 seeks to involve more schools in more provinces becoming engaged in ensuring that water security and responsible use and management become achievable. Like businesses, it is crucial that schools become water-efficient for their own long-term sustainability.

Pupils who are engaged in the programme tackle issues with depth, taking the practices, new choices and learnings back home, increasing their spheres of influence in families and the wider community.

Any school or eco-club can participate in the programme for free by signing up: www.waterexplorer.org.

Bridget Ringdahl

Water Explorer Programme Manager

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