One of the Village of Lansing Mayor Donald Hartill's favorite things to say is that you pay a lot more for bottled water than you do for gasoline -- and he is right.  At today's gas prices bottled water can cost around 150 times the cost of gas.

This morning I saw a video explaining that bottled water costs over 2,000 times more than tap water, and is sometimes of inferior quality or taste.    The video also explained that all those recycled plastic bottles are either down-cycled (turned into a less good, cheap plastic product that is later just thrown away) or ends up in waste heaps, often exported to other countries.

I don't drink many bottled beverages any more -- I used to be a Coca-Cola addict, but when i stopped cold turkey and lost ten pounds I figured I should stick with water.  Well water, in my case.  It is amazing to me how fast the bag of bottles from one person add up.  When I was in my Coke phase, at least one and sometimes more kitchen-sized garbage bags of empty bottles left the house to be recycled every week.  That's probably not a lot of plastic -- after all, most of the volume of an empty beverage bottle is air.  But it adds up to a lot of plastic when you consider the population of the planet's developed countries is over a billion people.

By the way, in another news story I saw this morning, the CEO of Coac-Cola told Bloomberg News that, among other things, declining sales of Coke are because of the growing trend toward online shopping.  The idea is that if you don't get that sudden urge to buy a coke at the vending machine or the food court at the mall, it's because you are not going to the mall or similar places where you might feel that sudden urge.  I have to admit that I don't have any particular Coke craving when I'm browsing Amazon.com or Walmart.com or target.com.  My takeaway is that, despite the fact you are sitting and not walking around, online shopping is healthier than traditional shopping.  Couch potatoes can take that to the bank!

I can think of two instances in which it makes sense to drink bottled water.  The obvious one is when you live in a place that only has contaminated public or well water.  Or you are traveling and need a convenient container of easily obtainable beverage that is not likely to spill all over your car.  A third might be if you want some kind of carbonated water or sugary drink -- the bottles do tend to keep the bubbles in.

But aside from these practical reasons, why pay 2000 times the cost of something that is nearly free?

By one set of calculations from 2015 you could fill 4,787 bottles of water with tap water for about $2.10.  If you pay a dollar per bottle of spring water you would be paying $4,787 for the same amount of water.  But is the quality the same?  Several reports indicate that the quality both in purity and taste is often better for tap water than it is for bottled spring water.  We have a spring behind our house and I would have to agree, especially during the flooding season when the water turns brown.

A Good Morning America taste test revealed that 45% of the testers preferred New York City tap water, Poland Spring bottled water got the next highest vote at 24%, and other brands less.  Our own Bolton Point Water Authority routinely wins water taste tests.  In fact it won again two weeks ago in the Tompkins County Drinking Water Taste Test held in Ithaca.

According to the International Bottled Water Association, 11.7 billion gallons of bottled water, or an average of 36.3 gallons per person, were consumed in 2015.  Wholesale sales amounted to $14.2 billion.  And bottled water only accounts for 1% of the water market in the United States.

What does that mean?  Is it that 99% of us are already drinking tap water, so the amount of bottled water sales is insignificant?  I wouldn't say that more than $14 billion worth of bottled products (remember, that's just bottled water, not sodas and sports drinks and other liquid refreshment that comes in bottles) is insignificant.

What it tells me is that the power of marketing is real.  Think about it: don't you think of pure mountain springs with Disney bluebirds and lots of greenery when you think of spring water?  Guess who made you think that?  I know it wasn't me with my muddy spring. 

To put it another way.  If you drink the recommended eight ( 8 ounce) glasses of water per day, those 4,787 bottles would last about 4.3 years.  That comes to $1,113 per year for bottled water.  A 2013 estimate calculates a six night Disney vacation would cost around $871 per person, not counting travel.  So let's round it up to about $1,200 to unscientifically account for a plane ticket and price rises since that time.  You could go to Disneyworld and see those bluebirds.  Drink tap water for two years and you can go with a friend.

Drinking IS hazardous to your health!  Financial health, at least.

Or perhaps I should look at this a different way, and start bottling my own spring water.  I could name it after the famous blues singer, Muddy Waters.  I always loved his music...