The Duncan Banner

August 6, 2013

Bottled water is the new scam of the century

Jeff Kaley
The Duncan Banner

DUNCAN — It’s been over 10 years since I moved out of sports writing and began writing a column for the editorial page. Every so often this year, I’m rerunning a piece from the first year of the transition. This column first appeared in The Duncan Banner in June 2003.


Now that a parade of CEOs and bean counters are going to the woodshed for economic excesses and eccentricities in the 1990s, let me call upon the Securities and Exchange Commission to expose the biggest scam of the past decade: Bottled water.

With millions of Americans now nursing on plastic bottles of H2O, is it any wonder we fall victim to financial snake oil salesmen?

Okay, I realize many of you don’t have time to think about the ramifications of bottled water, You’ve got jobs, bills to pay and kids to take to the dentist. This is why I’ve been appointed to occasionally relieve your burden and think for you.

And when I ponder the absurdity of bottled water, I understand why Prof. Harold Hill did so well selling musical instruments in rural Iowa.

For quite some time, this bottled water phenomenon has been high on my thought list. In the past few months, several situations have arisen that caused water to flow through my gray matter.

First, I read a blurb in a magazine reporting that bottled water has become a $5 billion industry in the USofA. It noted the price of a gallon of fancy-schmancy water is now more than the cost of a gallon of milk

This seems totally bonkers. Water purity standards in this nation are sometimes questioned, but $5 billion to drink water out of a plastic bottle? Water costs more than milk?

Second incident: On day in a grocery store, I was examining a bottle of this precious element. I discovered it is “purified water” that has been “enhanced with minerals for a pure, fresh taste.”

Huh? Water bottlers are filtering out minerals and then putting minerals back in? Only in America.

But there was more. On the nutrition section of the label, I found this: Calories 0, Total Fat 0, Sodium 0, Total Carbohydrates 0, Protein 0.

No duh! IT’S WATER!

As the water investigation continued, I recently pulled up behind an 18-wheeler and noted these words on the back of the truck: Natural Spring Water. Passing the tanker, I saw the truck was owned by Ozarka Springs Bottling in Fort Worth, Texas.

Fort Worth? Now, there’s a town recognized worldwide as the “Lourdes of North America”; a place thousands of pilgrims converge on seeking sips of its healing aqua.

The juxtaposition struck me: Here’s an 18-wheeler jamming up traffic, burning up fuel and belching fumes into the air. Why? So Americans can go to a convenience store and pay $2 or $3 for a bottle of something that’s available almost for free from that sticky-out apparatus over the sink. You know — a water spout! A spigot!

Heck, at our house, there are four of those thingies inside, two on the outside and one built into the refrigerator. Yet every couple of weeks, my wife returns from shopping with a case of Dasani and refuses to drink water from the faucet. “I don’t like the taste of Duncan water,” she says.

When I mention to my two teenage sons if they’re thirsty they should get a drink from the faucet, they look back as though I’ve suggested they set their hair on fire!

Now, before Karen recommends I sleep in the car tonight, it’s time for a confession: I, too, have become a victim of the bottled water habit.

Not at home, mind you. I won’t give the other three the satisfaction of seeing me reach in the fridge and grab a bottle of water, However, in the back seat of my car there’s a half-filled bottle of water strategically placed on the floorboard. It’s there if I ever find myself in the Mojave, parched to the bone and dying of thirst. (At least, that’s my excuse for having the bottle!)

While attending our youngest son’s baseball games this summer, it became a ritual for me to go to the concession stand and say, “Bottle of water, please.” There’s a public water fountain on the way 4 feet away, but would I walk over and get a slurp? You gotta be kiddin’!

At work? Well, once I’ve brought my coffee jitters to the minimum daily requirement, the only substance I drink the rest of the day is bottled water. And more than once I’ve go to the soda/water machine and discovered it’s out of water. At that point, I storm down the hallway, burst into Publisher Mike Thornberry’s office and, in red-faced rage, threaten to QUIT if that danged Coke man doesn’t start stocking more water in that stinkin’ machine!

Bottle water? It’s got hits hooks in American society and has become one of the scams of the century.

As the esteemed social commentator B. Bunny would say: What a bunch of maroons we are.

580-255-5354, Ext. 172. Kaley is managing editor of Waurika News-Democrat