Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs, and the Battle over Americas Drinking Water

Bottlemania: Big Business, Local Springs, and the Battle over Americas Drinking Water

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by Elizabeth Royte
     
 

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Second only to soda, bottled water is on the verge of becoming the most popular beverage in the country. The brands have become so ubiquitous that were hardly conscious that Poland Spring and Evian were once real springs, bubbling in remote corners of Maine and France. Only now, with the water industry trading in the billions of dollars, have we begun to question what

Overview

Second only to soda, bottled water is on the verge of becoming the most popular beverage in the country. The brands have become so ubiquitous that were hardly conscious that Poland Spring and Evian were once real springs, bubbling in remote corners of Maine and France. Only now, with the water industry trading in the billions of dollars, have we begun to question what it is were drinking.
In this intelligent, accomplished work of narrative journalism, Elizabeth Royte does for water what Michael Pollan did for food: she finds the people, machines, economies, and cultural trends that bring it from distant aquifers to our supermarkets. Along the way, she investigates the questions we must inevitably answer. Who owns our water? How much should we drink? Should we have to pay for it? Is tap safe water safe to drink? And if so, how many chemicals are dumped in to make it potable? What happens to all those plastic bottles we carry around as predictably as cell phones? And of course, whats better: tap water or bottled?

Editorial Reviews

Lisa Margonelli
Bottlemania is an easy-to-swallow survey of the subject from verdant springs in the Maine woods to tap water treatment plants in Kansas City; from the grand specter of worldwide water wars, to the microscopic crustaceans called copepods, whose presence in New York's tap water inspired a debate by Talmudic scholars about whether the critters violated dietary laws, and whether filtering water on the Sabbath constituted work. (Verdict: no and no.) Water is a topic that lends itself to tour-de-force treatment (the book Cadillac Desert and the movie Chinatown come to mind), as well as righteous indictments and dire predictions (Thirst: Fighting the Corporate Theft of Our Water, When the Rivers Run Dry: Water—The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century). Where others are bold, Bottlemania is subversive, and after you read it you will sip warily from your water bottle (whether purchased or tap, plastic or not)
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Royte (Garbage Land) plunges into America's mighty thirst for bottled water in an investigation of "one of the greatest marketing coups of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries." As tap water has become cleaner and better-tasting, the bottled water industry has exploded into a $60 billion business; consumers guzzle more high-priced designer water than milk or beer and spend billions on brands such as Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani that are essentially processed municipal water. It's an unparalleled-and almost exclusively American-"social phenomenon." With journalistic zeal, Royte chronicles the questionable practices of Nestle-owned Poland Springs and documents the environmental impact of discarded plastic bottles, the carbon footprint of water shipped long distances and health concerns around the leaching of plastic compounds from bottles. Not all tap water is perfectly pure, writes Royte, still, 92% of the nation's 53,000 local water systems meet or exceed federal safety standards and "it is the devil we know," at least as good and often better than bottled water. This portrait of the science, commerce and politics of potable water is an entertaining and eye-opening narrative. (June)

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Library Journal

Water. It's the essence of life, the main component of our bodies and our planet. It's free and seemingly accessible-yet millions of Americans pay for bottles of it every day. Environmental author Royte (Garbage Land; The Tapir's Morning Bath) discusses the historical, political, environmental, moral, and even culinary aspects of water. In a journalistic and often humorous manner, she recounts her travels to natural springs and the towns torn apart by their presence and her meetings with water executives and hydrogeologists while discussing the modern implications of the bottle vs. the tap. The story that emerges is an interesting one-there are enough backroom deals to make the plot seem fitting of the film Michael Clayton. Readers will be surprised at the many facets of the story of bottled water, and the blend of narrative with historical fact keeps the book compelling and dynamic. For those inspired to find out more about their water, Royte includes an appendix of Internet resources and a selected bibliography for further reading. Recommended for all public libraries and academic libraries with environmental science programs.
—Jaime Hammond

School Library Journal

Adult/High School

With a seamless blend of first-person observation, detailed anecdotes, and hard research, Royte explores the history and ramifications of those ubiquitous plastic and glass bottles. She addresses the economic, ecological, and cultural weight of water as she visits massive New York aqueducts, struggling rural villages in Maine, and high-tech treatment plants in Missouri. Her findings reflect the distressing trend of our heavy footprint on the environment and its resources. From petroleum-laden bottles and gas-guzzling shipping containers to serious flora and fauna shifts in small-town ponds, the "purity" of bottled water may be murkier than you might have imagined. This book will intrigue a younger generation of readers who might ask, "Wait, major corporations didn't always own water?"-Shannon Peterson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA

Kirkus Reviews
Journalist Royte (Garbage Land: On the Secret Trail of Trash, 2005, etc.) traces bottled-water production and the origins of other sources of potable water. The author begins in Fryeburg, Maine, where citizens are engaged in a battle with Poland Spring over the company's water-bottling practices. Such battles are being fought across the country, many against Nestle (which also owns Deer Park, Ice Mountain and others), Coca-Cola (Dasani) and Pepsi (Aquafina). The demand is increasing rapidly, argue the corporations, and they have a point: In the period between 1997 and 2006, sales jumped from $4 billion to $10.8 billion. But don't make that argument to Howard Dearborn, an 81-year-old resident of Fryeburg who insists that Poland Spring's drilling is ruining his lake by its continuous pumping from the underground spring that feeds it. Not to mention the environmental detriment of producing and shipping all that water: In fact, the author notes, "on average, only 60 to 70 percent of the water used by bottling plants ends up on supermarket shelves: the rest is waste." The saga in Maine provides the central narrative and theme-the question of whether water should be a commodity to be bought and sold-but Royte also examines the journey of tap water, revealing the contents and relative quality of various municipal supplies across the country, including New York City and Kansas City, "where the public utility sucks from the Missouri River something that resembles chocolate Yoo-Hoo and turns it into water so good that national magazines shower it with awards and even the locals buy it in bottles." Those readers with weak stomachs may cringe at the author's descriptions of some of thewater-filtration processes-and the many chemicals, bacteria and other nasties the process supposedly filters out-but Royte deserves credit for her tenacity and well-balanced approach. Though she personally chooses not to support the bottled-water industry, she shines just as bright a light on the problems with tap-water production. She even gives voice to "bottled-water expert" Michael Mascha, who enjoys, among others, "Bling-which comes in a corked bottle decorated with Swarovski crystals." A helpful appendix follows the text. Lively investigative journalism.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781608196630
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
01/15/2011
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
272
Sales rank:
874,964
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

Elizabeth Royte has written for the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian, and The New Yorker. She is the author of Garbage Land and The Tapirs Morning Bath.
Elizabeth Royte has written for the New York Times Magazine, Harpers, National Geographic, Outside, Smithsonian, and The New Yorker. She is the author of Garbage Land and The Tapirs Morning Bath.

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Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Charlottes-son More than 1 year ago
There are more answers than questions in this book. You will be glad you read this one. I recommend this to everyone who asks the question, why can't i drink out of the sink. Thats what we use to do, and in most cases still can. but what happened to that idea? Where is all this leading to.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Looks at both the bottled water industry and U.S. municipal water systems. We can see the writer's biases, but we can also see the objectivity and balanced treatment of the subject, as well.
BryHigh More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book out of curiosity. I found myself intrigued by the discussion of our U.S. clean water infrastructure and the battles over bottling companies and some communities. If you've ever thought every bottled water is the same, read this.
ctrefren More than 1 year ago
I thought this book was informative about the causes and effects of different sources of water. Bottlemania provided very good facts about the water industry, although sometimes hard to understand. I liked how Elizabeth Royte included a story line into this book that mainly contained facts and data analysis. It made the book easier and more interesting to me because I was wondering what would happen to the town of Fryeburg, Maine. Throughout the book, tap water, purified tap water, springwater and filtered water was analyized each having some negative and positive effects. I'm still not sure which type of water I would rather drink but I think I'm going to go with tap water for now.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
PKinRALCC More than 1 year ago
Today, most people have a hectic life and in this hectic life of running around portability is something we have to consider. As well as portability, we wouldn't mind if it was good for us too. The solution: Bottled Water. Water is something we cannot live without and bottled water companies are taking advantage of this fact by making us pay a price for something we naturally deserve. This book to me overall was not very interesting. Some facts in the book surprised me but that was about it. The author explains everything in a very confusing way that I think most students would not understand. I thought it was confusing when she explained some of the bottled water companies. Elizabeth Royte does not give the reader a clear explanation of who the person is and what their job is. I did like how she gave some of her own opinions throughout the book. To me the whole thing about the towm versus the bottled water companies was stretched out just a little too much. This book could have been half the length of what it is.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
christie21CI More than 1 year ago
Elizabeth Royte uncovers the secrets to bottled water and tells you information you never would have thought about. You end up changing your mind about if you are or are not going to drink bottled water.
TC_Writer More than 1 year ago
Royte is a solid journalist and writer, and Bottlemania delves deeply into the bottled water industry. Royte managed to connect all the pieces of this story via an interesting narrative, and like most, I wasn't entirely clear on the true sources and potential costs of bottled water. Bottlemania was an eye-opening look at bottled water -- including the real costs to the often small, rural communities involved. It's the kind of journalism that's all too rare nowadays.