Story at a glance

  • A new study estimates that only using bottled water would have about 1,400 times more impact on ecosystems and 3,500 times higher cost of resource extraction than only using tap water.
  • The study estimated that a complete shift to tap water without filters might equate to an average of two hours less life expectancy.
  • Researchers said that domestic filters can substantially reduce THM levels and minimize the health risk.

If the entire population of Barcelona shifted to tap water, a new study estimates they could save $83.9 million per year and cut the environmental impact by up to 3,500 times — as much as if the city only used bottled water. 

“Tap water quality has increased substantially in Barcelona since the incorporation of advanced treatments over the last years. However, this considerable improvement has not been mirrored by an increase in tap water consumption, which suggests that water consumption could be motivated by subjective factors,” Cristina Villanueva, the lead author of the study, the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), which sponsored the research. 


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Tap water can contain trihalomethanes (THM), which are associated with bladder cancer, but researchers said that domestic filters can substantially reduce THM levels and minimize the health risk. The study estimated that a complete shift to tap water without filters might equate to an average of two hours less life expectancy — but that number drops almost completely when using domestic filtration. 

At the same time, if Barcelona shifted entirely to bottled water, almost two species would be lost each year, about 1,400 times more impact in ecosystems and 3,500 times higher cost of resource extraction than the alternative. 

“We need to improve access to public water, to public fountains, to public buildings where you can bring your own bottle and don’t need to buy one. We need to facilitate access to public water in public streets. People trust bottled water because advertisers have done a good job of convincing people it’s a good option, so we need the effort on the other side," Villanueva told The Guardian


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Published on Aug 06, 2021