The Fairytale of “Organic” Water
Time and time again, marketing teams have proven that people will buy pretty much anything. So many examples exist that the topic was enough for Brooks Jackson to write an entire book about it. One of the more recent flim-flam schemes is selling organic water. Wait a tick, did I just say that? Yes, I did. Organic. Water. A couple of NPR health reporters stumbled upon a marketing display for a particularly chic Welsh brand of organic water at a trade show in Washington, D.C. last week. But there are several marques purporting organic superiority.
As our friends at NPR pointed out, there’s nothing organic about water. Formed from hydrogen and oxygen molecules, it lacks the carbon atoms necessary to be classified as organic. It should be colorless, odorless, and free of any discernible flavor. As a matter of fact, organic material is one of the last things you want in a drinking water supply if it’s going to be chlorinated. When organic material such as leaves, dead bugs, sticks, wildfire ash, and things of that sort mix with chlorine used in the treatment process, they form what are known as disinfectant byproducts. The chief ones are trihalomethane and haloacetic acid, both carcinogens known to cause liver, rectal and reproductive problems. Removing organic material from pretreatment drinking water through filtration and ozone treatment (which, technically, could replace chlorination but for current water quality regulations) costs money, but is a normal part of the drinking water supply chain.
The other real life organic water you can get (but wouldn’t want to) is the kind containing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs. There are a number of VOCs commonly found in drinking water near industrial sites, mostly from chlorinated solvents and benzene. Chlorinated solvents are used in all kinds of household and industrial products, including degreasers, coffee decaffinators, and septic tank chemicals. Many filling stations have leached benzene into ground water over the years, and EPA’s superfund designation is one of a handful of costly programs underway to clean it all up.
That’s not to say that llanllyr SOURCE and other carriers of “organic” bottled water are poisoning people with cancer-causing chemicals. But the fact is that not only is their marketing schtick misleading, it’s also dumb. Wake up and smell the water, world. It shouldn’t smell like anything at all, and it’s not organic. Perhaps tap water would be less scary to people if all the money spent on bottled water (which often comes from the tap anyway) was invested into infrastructure projects and watershed protection.
Learn more about the bottled water issue on our web site.