Beyond the Bottles

Substantial investments need to be made to improve our drinking water.© Getty Images

While consumers continue to buy bottled water as if their taps held poison, (see "Keeping America Cluttered," Currents, September/October 2007), long-term neglect of our nation’s public drinking water supply is slowly turning their attitude into a self-fulfilling prophecy. A 2007 report by Food and Water Watch, "Take Back the Tap," suggests that the laudable goal of reducing bottled water consumption to save our waterways is simply not enough. Due to chronic inadequate funding of public water agencies meant to protect public drinking water and sewage systems, water lines built as early as the late 1800s are wearing out under the "weight of age and a growing population."

According to the report, public health agencies issued more than 20,000 warnings against swimming on U.S. coastal beaches in 2005. And the Natural Resources Defense Council recently warned that more waterborne disease outbreaks will occur unless "substantial investments" are made to improve our drinking water and sewage storage and distribution systems.

Food and Water Watch recommends that a federal clean water trust fund be established to make up for the almost $22 billion annual shortfall needed to maintain and improve public drinking water and sewage systems. The report suggests the trust be funded by polluters, and include fees on flushable consumer items, increased permitting fees for dumping and fees on toxics manufacturers.