One of the OEP’s senior interns, Manisha Bicchieri, is studying abroad in Italy this semester. She is participating in an Environmental and Agricultural Sustainability program in Florence. As part of this program, Manisha is partaking in a variety of field excursions including two farm stays. This is the first post of her blog series, Sustainability in Italy.
The Environmental and Agricultural Sustainability program is a close collaboration between the International Studies Institute (ISI) and the University of Connecticut. Thus UConn professors often come to teach at ISI. For the past three weeks, Professor Gary Robbins taught a condensed course on water resources. As part of the course, we visited a water bottling plant, AcquaPanna, and Florence’s public water facility, Publiacqua.
AcquaPanna is water-bottling company located in Tuscany, though its distribution is worldwide. Our visit took us from the source of the water to the bottle. AcquaPanna bottles natural mineral water that flows underground from the Apennines Mountains. The minerals are absorbed naturally as water flows through the geological formations to its source. Because the water flows underground, it is protected from surface pollution. Thus the water is naturally purified and bottled at the source without any additional treatment. AcquaPanna produces over 300 million liters of water each year, 30% of which is exported abroad. The water is bottled in either glass or PET.
Publiacqua is responsible for the collection, treatment, transport, and distribution of drinking water for four Italian provinces, including Florence. Within the 49 municipalities it serves dwells one-third of the regional population, or about 1,277,000 inhabitants.
Bottled Water vs. Tap Water
Like Americans, many Italians regularly drink bottled water, despite free water being available in many public places. In fact, Italians are the top consumers of bottled water in Europe, and third in the world. There are four key reasons to choose tap water: convenience, savings, quality and safety, and the environment.
Convenience – Want water? Turn on the tap.
Savings – In Italy, the average price for a pack of 6-1.5 liter bottles, is € 2.40 (just over $3 US). Supposing you purchase two packs per week, you spend € 250 for 936 liters per year. In comparison, tap water costs approximately € 2 per cubic meter, or 1000 liters. Thus, bottled water is nearly 500 times more expensive than tap water.
Quality and Safety – Tap water is closely monitored for both quality and safety.
Environment – Using tap water helps the environment by reducing the production of plastic, transportation emissions, and waste. Each pound of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate, plastics coded “1”) – enough to make 12 bottles – requires two pounds of oil and an additional six bottles of water to complete the chemical reaction. Additionally, the entire process emits two pounds of carbon dioxide. Unlike tap water, bottle water is transported, increasing carbon emissions, especially when transported abroad.
The consumption of bottled water is a major environmental problem throughout the developed world. Just turn on the tap!