June 28, 2007 — -- Walk into any grocery store in the country and they rise up like the eighth wonder of the world -- bottles upon bottles of water, all begging to be bought.
But when the free water coming out of most American taps is perfectly drinkable, some wonder why people are paying for water bottled in places as far off as Fiji.
Charles Fishman, Fast Company magazine's editor at large, argues that bottled water fever has risen to a collective mania in America. On "Good Morning America," he said that Americans should stop indulging in pricey, imported H2O.
"Do you really need to drink water from Fiji or France? You have to consider the environmental impact of moving these bottles -- why move something around the world when we have access to it here," he said.
Fishman explained that it takes weeks to ship bottles of Fiji water from the South Pacific to America and the bubbles used in San Pellegrino must be mined from a volcanic spring. He doesn't believe all the time and energy spent on bottling and shipping water is worthwhile.
"It's a waste. If everyone is doing it you realize what's involved," he said, estimating that the United States goes through a billion bottles of water every week. "It's a permanent container that never goes away -- throwing away a billion dollars worth of plastic."
Some say that just because water's bottled doesn't mean it's of better quality.
In March, sports nutritionist Cynthia Sass said that 25 percent of all bottled water is actually repackaged tap water. And in a recent Gallup survey, most consumers indicated they drink bottled water based on their perception it is safer and purer than tap water.
Fishman thinks that tap water's recent bad rap is completely unjustified.
"What happened was bottled water became fashionable," he said. "It created a suspicion of tap water in an odd way -- 'Bottled must be better quality than tap.' In some communities tap is unpleasant. But in other places it's the opposite."
Smart marketing and the introduction of the plastic water bottle helped make bottled water so popular, according to Fishman. But change could be on the horizon.
"San Francisco this week announced city offices wouldn't spend city money buying bottled water," he said. "New York is spending $1 million reminding how great tap water is. In the last year there's been dramatic shift in attitude."
Fishman doesn't condemn bottled water. He said he just wants consumers to think about what they're doing every time they break open a new bottle or pick up a 24-pack from the supermarket.
"I'm not saying there is anything wrong with drinking bottled water. In some ways, it's an issue of scale and thoughtlessness," he said. "[But] buy one and then refill the bottle. Put it in the refrigerator."