Sparkling water

Water used to be free. In some parts of the world it still is but with all the pollution and diseases, it is becoming increasingly difficult to safely drink straight from a river, and in many parts of the world, from the tap. And then they came up with privatised water. Water sold in plastic bottles, sealed in plastic after being processed, cleaned and ensured to have the same amounts of trace minerals. People had to start paying for potable water! Maybe the company heads got together and said- ‘Hey, you go set up something up-stream that will pollute this river. Don’t worry about the pollutants and environmental regulations because I will soon set up a purification plant further down and we can both make more money, what do you say?’

But maybe it’s not always companies. Awareness among individuals is higher in the past few years but littering on picnics, hikes and excursions still happens. Some people take the dirty-city spirit where ever they go with not the least bit of respect for the sanctity of nature. They simply don’t even think about it. So yes, now we have water in plastic bottles. (Now the second company head could be thinking… aha! I should expand in manufacturing plastic bottles for these water companies.) The sheer energy and resources that go into making plastic is a story in itself, which may make you think about your carbon foot-print more carefully. But let’s leave that for another time.

What irks me more about this situation is that it has become normal for restaurants to serve ‘sparkling water’ when someone asks for water. What happened to good old, fresh, cool and smooth normal water? Such water is now called especially ‘still water’. Though these terms serve some level of descriptive purpose, when I think of the words, I like sparkling more than still. When I think of sparkling water I think of a stream gushing rapidly, so clean and fresh that it simply shines and sparkles in the sun. And when I think of still water, an image of a pond comes to mind. Ponds can be clean of course but the more stagnant water is, the more likely it has various types of protozoa and algae thriving on the remains of fallen leaves and the egg-shells of frogs. Probably higher in the N P K (Nitrate, Phosphorous, Potassium) content.

So the waitress brings me a glass bottle, giving plastic a break, opens the metal lid off in front of me and pours it into a glass for me where it fizzes away! Do you know why it fizzes, by the way? Sparkling water is also called fizzy water, carbonated water, soda water or ‘club soda’! It contains Carbon Dioxide dissolved into ordinary water under pressure. Most people with basic chemistry may remember this from school. The next question though is- oh dear, so are we drinking Carbonic Acid then?

H2O + CO2 = H2CO3

Yes, this does happen but they also add some alkaline like Sodium Bicarbonate to neutralise the acidity and takes away the slight sour taste. Hence the name ‘soda’ (from sodium salts present in the water).

I simply sit there appalled that I will be paying 1.30 Euros for this!

As energy intensive as privatised water is, to add this to the process really takes a lot more energy. And all for some bubbly salted water. I simply don’t see the point. It’s not nearly as good for the body as old-fashioned simple water. And it has many problems along the same lines of ‘soft drinks’ like Coca Cola, Pepsi, who also sell privatised water under brand names like Dasani and Aquafina.

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Perhaps we should rethink water; Think about what goes into taking it from its natural source to our bathroom and kitchen taps where it is released in great force and quantities as we take extra long showers, and leave taps open as we reach for soaps or toothbrushes (Just turn it off!). Think about leaking, inefficient old plumbing. Maybe we should think about making it compulsory to provide free potable ‘still’ water in restaurants. I’m happy that in India this is still done in a majority of places. And in Kerala it is often more special- water boiled with herbs known to be good for the circulatory and urinary systems (for free!). Maybe we should also rethink our consumption of ‘sparkling’ water and soft drinks for the sake of our own health if not the good of the environment.

This video is the real story of Coke in Kerala, India.

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