M.U.D. supports "Tapped"
The Metropolitan Utilities District is sponsoring a free public screening of the movie Friday at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
The Environmental Club of UNO and Repower Nebraska are hosting the show, which will include swapping people's recyclable plastic bottles for up to 100 stainless steel bottles and half-off coupons.
"You don't need to buy bottled water," said M.U.D. spokeswoman Mari Matulka. "It's a waste of money."
Tap water is safe and much less expensive than bottled water purchased at a store, Matulka said.
A 20-ounce bottle of water can cost more than $1 at a store. A 20-ounce glass of tap water from M.U.D. costs less than one-tenth of a penny.
It's big business for the bottled-water industry, which rang up more than $11 billion in sales in 2008, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp.
Sarah Olson helped produce "Tapped" and "I.O.U.S.A.," a movie about government debt and deficits that premiered two years ago in Omaha and included interviews with billionaire Warren Buffett.
Olson and director Stephanie Soechtig are traveling with "Tapped" to screenings in 30 cities on a tour that began March 22 in Los Angeles and ends in New York City on Earth Day, April 22.
An audience discussion with Olson and Soechtig is planned in Omaha after the show.
Not everyone agrees that tap water is as safe as bottled water.
Michael Platt, co-owner of Omaha-based Ideal Pure Water, said many people prefer the taste and health benefits of water that is treated beyond what utilities accomplish to remove chemicals from tap water.
Ideal sells tap water purification systems for home use and single-serve bottled water. It also rents water coolers to businesses for their employees and customers. The coolers use large plastic jugs of purified water that are reused and recycled when they break.
"I got to believe that people are awful gullible when it comes to the environment if they think tap water is safe to drink," Platt said.
The makers of "Tapped" also argue that plastics used to make the bottles can leach into the water, creating another contamination danger for people who drink it.
M.U.D. spent $300 to get the film to Omaha. The utility thinks people should not spend money on water in a bottle, particularly in a recession, Matulka said.
The movie makes that point and goes farther, accusing the bottled-water industry of trying to "privatize and sell back the one resource that ought never to become a commodity: our water."
Tom Lauria, a spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, said that claim and others in the movie are false or misleading. The bottled-water industry knows that nearly all U.S. consumers and industries rely on tap water, and it supports strong and adequately funded municipal water systems, Lauria said.
Bottled water is convenient and often used in emergencies such as hurricanes, floods and wildfires, Lauria said.
"We're very concerned about it," Lauria said of the movie. "It misrepresents many facts about bottled water."
Among other things, the film argues that bottled water, which is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, does not face the same testing regimen that tap water undergoes under the Environmental Protection Agency.
Lauria defended the industry, saying the FDA monitors and inspects bottled water and the plants that process it.
The film also argues that only 20 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled and the rest end up in landfills or the oceans. The bottled-water industry puts the recycle rate at nearly 40 percent and calls bottled-water containers the nation's most-recycled plastic container.
"Some of the environmental problems we face are much greater than the bottled-water industry," Lauria said. "Bottled water accounts for one-third of 1 percent of the U.S. municipal waste stream."
Major bottled-water companies like Coca-Cola with Dasani and PepsiCo with Aquafina stress their water purification processes and lighter-weight, recyclable bottles. Coke officials said Dasani has launched a plastic bottle in the western U.S. that incorporates plant-based material, reducing its use of petroleum products.
Gillian Cromwell, president of the Environmental Club at UNO, said she thinks people in Omaha will want to see the film.
Everyone should be concerned about bottled water, she said.
"Think of all the factories producing new plastic bottles and releasing tons of toxins into the surrounding environment," Cromwell said. "And all of this water has to be shipped, usually by petroleum-powered trucks or ships."
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