November 18, 2008 at 11:41AM
by Alexandra Zissu
I have a question for you (I searched for an answer in your blog, but couldn't find it). What's the best solution to drinking filtered water on road trips and vacation? I hate buying bottled water, so I always fill up my reusable glass VOSS bottle at home before I go ... but that only lasts so long. Then I usually just end up drinking tap water (but I hate doing that too). Do you bring a Brita pitcher or filter with you, buy bottled water, or...? I'd really like to know what the best solution to this would be.
Interesting question. I never buy bottled water at home not only because of the environmental impact of all of those bottles but also because I've known for years what the Environmental Working Group confirmed a few weeks back - just because its in a bottle doesn't mean it's purer. In fact, the only thing you're guaranteed of when buying bottled water is getting ripped off. A lot of (expensive) bottled is actually the same old (free) tap water you're looking to avoid. Their recent investigation found bottled water contains disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication.
From the report:
"Unlike tap water, where consumers are provided with test results every year, the bottled water industry does not disclose the results of any contaminant testing that it conducts. Instead, the industry hides behind the claim that bottled water is held to the same safety standards as tap water. But with promotional campaigns saturated with images of mountain springs, and prices 1,900 times the price of tap water, consumers are clearly led to believe that they are buying a product that has been purified to a level beyond the water that comes out of the garden hose. Laboratory tests conducted for EWG at one of the country's leading water quality laboratories found that 10 popular brands of bottled water, purchased from grocery stores and other retailers in 9 states and the District of Columbia, contained 38 chemical pollutants altogether, with an average of 8 contaminants in each brand. More than one-third of the chemicals found are not regulated in bottled water ... our tests strongly indicate that the purity of bottled water cannot be trusted. Given the industry's refusal to make available data to support their claims of superiority, consumer confidence in the purity of bottled water is simply not justified."
If I'm taking local vacations - to visit various grandparents, or the family beach house - I do drink filtered water. I don't actually travel with our pitcher, because these houses already have filtered tap water. But if I were renting a house upstate for a week or so, I would likely pack the pitcher, yes. Why not?
When I'm going further afield (which I'm less and less likely to do in this phase of life) and traveling with a pitcher to, say, Europe isn't really an option, I'd spend a few minutes poking around online to see what I could find out about my destination's municipal or well water situation. You could enlist your hotel or the house rental agency to come up with answers. If it needed to be filtered, I might look into buying one (or several) of those new BPA-free reusable water bottles that come with a built-in filter. Read the fine print - many of these bottle-in filters only deal with chlorine and sometimes lead and mercury. You want something that removes more than that and adheres to ANSI/NSF standards. Camping or sports equipment stores like EMS, REI, or Paragon sell versions of these filter-in bottles if you don't want to order online.
Alternately, you could look into what bottled waters will be locally available at your destination, then cross reference them with The Environmental Working Group to make sure they weren't the worst offenders.
Barring all of this, when thirsty, I'd likely just drink tap unless I knew there was a serious issue like viruses or bacteria - for that you might want to toss a pack of Pur's purifier of water packets in your luggage. They're hardcore for outdoor or emergency needs. Second to safe (preferably filtered) tap, I'd drink bottled, or I might try to drink things like juice. My whole eco approach is about minimizing exposure to potentially harmful chemicals. A week away from your filtered water is just that. It's not forever. Vacation is about loosening the reigns, water is yet another area that will have to be treated in a relaxed fashion while out of town.