A national shame: Bottled water sales are up as Americans fear taps

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

“Don’t drink the tap water.” Traditionally advice for Americans traveling to the Third World, that is now a sentiment that resonates domestically, too.

More Americans are opting for bottled water over what comes out of the tap because of concerns that aging pipes are leeching lead that sooner or later ends up at the faucet. Scandals in Flint, Mich., and Newark, N.J., are partly responsible for heightened consumer concern.

But crumbling infrastructure is a national problem. Years of negative publicity about sugary drinks and industry marketing also help to explain why bottled water may overtake soda in popularity this year. Still, the faltering public trust in public water systems is a sad commentary on the nation’s priorities.

The world’s lone superpower cannot provide safe drinking water for its own citizens? This is the price we pay for allowing our water systems, roads and bridges to deteriorate even as we have wasted money on wars and other entanglements overseas, while allowing contractors to milk the insufficient number of projects that are let for domestic infrastructure improvements.

The national, state and local governments must infuse money into water systems and work to win back Americans’ trust. Regulators also must keep a close eye on bottled water manufacturers to make sure consumers get the level of purity they’re promised.