I really like the latest “Green” thing in the form of these stainless steel water bottles people carry around with them rather than buying “Spring water” in throw-away plastic. I want to talk about spring water, but first I want to address the bottle issue.
These bottles are marketed by Sigg out of Switzerland. For those who weren’t around or who weren’t backpackers in the ’70s, these bottles are enjoying a co-opted renaissance. They began life as fuel bottles for backpackers’ camp stoves because they were light and strong and leak-proof. Bravo to Sigg for cashing in a good thing when they see it.
What I find amazing is the inconvenience people are willing to put up with in their effort to be GREEN. These bottles are not a convenient size, they have no convenient handle, no carrying belt clip thingy like a good canteen. Hell, they don’t even come with a drinkable cap – you have to buy that separately. The last thing I want to do is carry around a bottle which is really too big to hold, too big to put in a small pack or purse, isn’t insulated so the water I would have to sip is going to be damned HOT on a summer day, and is just, in brief, a clumsy nuisance.
That’s the price to pay, you might say, to get away from the throw-away waste to which our society has become addicted. Perhaps, but I still prefer that OTHER water carrying vessel of the 70s, which to my mind was infinitely more practical, transportable, comfortable and far less of a nuisance – the bota, wineskin. I bought a really good one in the late 70s and still use the same one to this day.
But on to the real point.
Spring water. The REALLY Great thing about the Sigg craze is that people are just getting plain old water to fill these things. Not so-called spring water. A compound word of sorts, “spring water” implies water from a spring, which implies it is something special, unique, different in some way. Better than old tap water. Spring Water! Oh,just the words rolling over the tongue allows you to taste that fresh, cool potable. Say it out loud and you can even smell the chilled air around the mountain spring where the water is delved from the Earth.
What we all grew up considering as spring water, was just that, water from a spring. A spring is simply a place where the surface of the Earth is lower in elevation than the groundwater surface, so groundwater flows up onto the land surface and becomes surface water, a.k.a. a stream. A stream begins at the place where groundwater first becomes surface water – a place we call the source of the stream; “source” is French for a spring; thus Source Perrier, for the Perrier spring in France, and Manon du Source (Manon of the Spring for those Gerard Depardieu fans with us).
With some unimportant exceptions (from a commercial water purveying perspective) springs occur mostly in a special type of limestone terrain known as karst terrains. The taste we associate(d) with spring water is water which is considered to be ‘hard’ in that it contains a lot of dissolved calcite (the mineral which makes up limestone), along with a few other soluble minerals, which imparts a flavor with no aftertaste and of course no chemical treatment because it is groundwater which contains no bacteria.
Unfortunately, at some springs, when the water emerges onto the land surface, a pool forms where algae and bacteria do grow, so the water would have to be treated with chlorine before it could be used as a potable source, thereby eliminating the natural marketability, not to mention the taste. So, in order to eliminate the environment for the growth of algae, one could drill a well right next to the spring and capture the same water before it bubbled out of the ground to the pool where algae could grow. You would still have the spring water (it IS collected at the spring) and the spring water taste, and it could be marketed as pure, untreated, natural and therefore unimprovable, to make it sound appetizing, even though it was not strictly collected by appealing French Aquarians who personally dip the bottle destined to be yours into the clear sparkling water at THE place where the land surface just happens to be below the water table. It’s close enough to make no neverminds, right?
Now suppose there was something in the way of that well location and the company had to move its well 100 meters from the actual spring but it still drew water from the same limestone water system which was a mere two minute flow before the water reached the spring pool and bubbled deliciously into your bottle, dipped lovingly with slender long fingers into the cool limpid waters…
Well, what the hell. Let’s go for broke. Suppose the company that wants to sell water doesn’t even own the land that has so obligingly lowered itself below the water table to create the magical spring, but it can get a lease to drill a well into the same subterranean plumbing system through which that same delicious, refreshing water is flowing on its inexorable path to the SPRING. It’s only five kilometers from the spring, but it is the same aquifer, same water, just a week or so flow time before it reaches our enticing advertising tapster waiting to ladle your own taste of the goodness of nature from the flowing bosom of the Earth just for you.
It IS the same water, but is it ‘spring’ water?
One final step – the ‘spring’ water has become so popular that people in other continents want some too. Well… suppose we find another limestone area and drill a well there? It IS groundwater which is heading to a spring and it IS in limestone so …. it’ll be close enough. I’ve got it!!! The Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania and the Chester Valley west of Philadelphia. There are limestone springs in those places, lots of water, good transportation corridors, many workers, everything we need. What about our name? Well, the COMPANY is now called XYZ Spring water, so we have to keep it even though the water is not coming from our own named spring.
Welcome to the world of bottled spring water. It is groundwater, just like the water that pours out of many of our kitchen faucets when we turn the tap. NO DIFFERENCE, except whatever minerals your water might have in it compared with those at the ‘spring’. Of course the water from the ‘spring’ that supplies your bottled water, is almost assuredly not the same mineral content which gave the original ‘spring’ water its distinctive taste – but it’s WATER. Who is going to know the difference?
The last thing I love about Perrier in particular – “Naturally Carbonated” Implying it is naturally sparkling and it comes from the ground with that crisp bubbly, palette cleansing tingle.
Time to stop being coy – OF COURSE it is naturally carbonated! Limestone is composed of calcium CARBONATE (CaCO3). It cannot help but be “carbonated”. The water contains dissolved calcium carbonate, which means the calcium cations and the carbonate anions are dissociated in the water – ergo, naturally carbonated. The bubbles are put in at the bottling plant – sorry, there really are no shy water nymphs lovingly sluicing your sparkling water directly into pristine bottles. Only a pipe leading from a well to a filtration plant to a cooling tower and carbonation unit and then into a bottle filling machine.
Source Perrier – your source for pure, untreated, naturally carbonated spring water directly from the Pennsylvania bottling plant to you. And a bargain at just $1.99 per (small) bottle.
No thanks! Pass me my bota and turn on the tap.