Tap dance

Our view: Why pay for something that's basically free?

June 23, 2008

You can easily spend $4 or more for a gallon. Yet you feel you can't live without the stuff. But it may be time to explore alternative sources.

We're referring, of course, to that great lubricant of modern life: bottled water. (What, you had some other expensive liquid in mind?)

Maybe oil and water don't mix, but that's not to say they don't affect each other. The economy is sagging, and high gasoline prices are taking much of the blame. When filling up the minivan sets you back $75, there's an inclination to cut back on frills - for instance, things you can get almost for free. Things, let's say, that your local municipality benevolently pipes into your home.

Of course, it's hardly news that bottled water is a big rip-off. It's not just absurdly expensive but environmentally harmful in multiple ways. Not to mention that much of what's sold in bottles is identical to municipal tap water.

Consider the sheer waste: In the 10 minutes it takes you to chug down a 20-ouncer, your fellow Americans consume the contents of about 4 million plastic bottles. Much of that is water, and most of it is not recycled.

But can you trust what comes out of your tap? In a word: yes. Especially if you are served by the Baltimore City Department of Public Works.

"We end up meeting and exceeding all the standards" for water quality, says Kurt Kocher, spokesman for the DPW. (You can get a copy of the city's 2007 water quality report at www.ci.baltimore.md.us/government/dpw/water/.)

No need to take his word for it, though; Men's Health magazine last year rated Baltimore as one of 11 major cities scoring an "A" for drinking water quality.

Water at three, four or five bucks a gallon is tough to swallow. It's worth remembering that we don't have to.

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