Deviating somewhat from Literary Lotus’ usual focus on books, writing, and all things literary, a few events have moved me to ramble on a bit here about bottled water. It has certainly been in the news in the past, mainly looking at the gobbling up of water rights in third world countries by large foreign corporations, and more recently focused on cost and environmental impact.

Yesterday’s New York Times editorial “In Praise of Tap Water” explored not only the environmental cost but also the possible future deterioration of our public water supply. At the end of May, a Times’ Dining section article, “Fighting the Tide,” discussed some premier chefs who are refusing to serve bottled water, even making their own sparkling with a base of tap water, for environmental reasons as well as to support the local community.

And of course there’s San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom’s recent ban on purchasing bottled water in his city departments and agencies, preceded by Salt Lake City, and New York City’s advertising campaign presenting an image of their tap water as clean and containing no sugar.

Now if I had more time, I’d be writing articles and perhaps a book about the cost and implications of the bottled water industry, and why I think Hawai`i, if not the entire U.S., should ban or at least curb bottled water production and usage–but for now this post shall suffice. We (the U.S. and Hawai`i) have some of the best public water in the world, and the Islands have no curbside recycling program as well as countless natural parks and land features to preserve and protect, so one would think that bottled water and that the rubbish it creates would be addressed and actively combated, yet every day what I see most of here (I can’t speak for the mainland) in the way of rubbish is empty water bottles–on the side of the road, on trails, or left on the beach.

Recently, while hiking to the summit (for the first time ever) of the extinct volcano Diamond Head, I was embarrassed and saddened to see countless plastic water bottle caps and bottles themselves littering the rocky slopes just beyond the trail. Especially at this iconic landmark, such disrespect and lack of responsible stewardship seems emblematic of an individual, state, and country-wide lack of care for our environment and our sustainability. That it is caused by an unneeded product only deepens this embarrassment, since unlike sodas, which aren’t available from a public tap, water–drinkable and clean–is readily available to be poured into reusable Nalgene bottles or other receptacles.

I can’t say with certainty at this point that an outright ban is the answer, but it’s definitely a problem that demands attention and dialogue, heading toward solutions that address the needs of the environment and people’s need for water–and soon.

Thanks for indulging this sidebar. Now, back to books.