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It’s summery, but the hot weather comes at a cost

The summer heat wave is alive and well after being on hiatus for a couple of years. Temperatures on the plus side of 30 degrees are again common, though the current spell is supposed to cool off by the weekend. Though it feels like summer, the heat comes at a price.

The recent drought has brought a burn ban in the townships and a plea to conserve water as levels diminish in the Grand River system. Public health officials are reminding us to drink plenty of water to replenish what we lose through sweating, particularly if we’re being active outdoors. Calls to conserve are somewhat at odds with the drink-more advice, though drinking water isn’t the biggest culprit when it comes to usage.

Don’t, however, rely on bottled water even if there’s concern about local supplies. That would run counter to municipal efforts to get us to trust tap water, and to reduce the waste generated by single-use plastic bottles. There’s also the environmental impact of shipping bottled water all over a country where safe, clean water is abundant.

Refillable containers are fine, apparently. Our obsession with transporting water everywhere we go explains in part a plan that will see the comeback of the once ubiquitous water fountain, as Woolwich councillors heard last week during an update from the region’s Healthy Kids Community Challenge Committee.

This would be a different kind of water station, removing the concerns – real or imagined – about the old fountains that many of us remember. It would allow for the filling of bottles and for drinking without having to put your lips on a shared spout, the contamination fears that prompted the removal of the old-school fountains.

Water is essential and, during the kind of hot summer we’re experiencing, a key part of beating the heat. But looking at how we use drinking water these days, why is that we now feel compelled to have a beverage, water or otherwise, within reach at all times?

Argue about the quality of tap water versus bottled water, or about the convenience factor, but there’s got to be a reason why we’re drinking the stuff in the amounts we do, all the while creating growing piles of discarded single-use plastic bottles.

A decade or so ago, we would have laughed if someone said we’d spending a dollar or two or three or more for a little bottle of water … and that we’d be buying them by the ton. Today, the North American bottled water industry is a $15-billion business.

Experts tell us our drinking water is safe, tested far more often and rigourously than the bottled variety. In fact, much of what we buy is simply municipal tap water that’s been filtered, bottled and sold for thousands of times what the company paid the municipality.

Municipal moves against bottled water are another step in changing the public’s perception, perhaps giving us pause to think about the consequences. It would be nice if we looked at the bigger picture, reassessing our impact as consumers: everything we buy comes at a cost beyond what we take out of our pockets.

Still more worrying, the changing climate behind the fluctuations in our weather patterns is predicted to make hotter and drier the norm – the costs associated with that shift will dwarf the bottled water concerns.

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