Yes, we’ve got financial problems, but we really have it good. Notice how we nearly all are willing to pay considerable money for bottled water, which tests have shown is no different from ordinary tap water. Now people are attempting to turn different brands of water (all of which is essentially the same) into ever more expensive status symbols. Water is the new wine. From What’s Colorless and Tasteless And Smells Like . . . Money?:
In Tokyo and Paris, you can now spend $5 a glass on special beverages selected by a professional sommelier.
Nothing surprising there, except the beverages being served are different brands of bottled water — with various “flavors” supposedly matched to different foods.
Desalinated seawater from Hawaii, meanwhile, is being sold as “concentrated water” — at $33.50 for a two-ounce bottle. Like any concentrated beverage, it is supposed to be diluted before drinking, except that in this case, that means adding water to . . . water.
And from Tennessee, a company named BlingH2O — whose marketing imagery features a mostly nude model improbably balancing a bottle of water between her heel and her hip — is retailing its water at $40 for 750 milliliters, with special-edition bottles going for $480 — more than a million times the price of the liquid that comes from your tap.
The push to turn water into the new wine is a marketing phenomenon: The bottled-water industry is engaged in an intense effort to convince Americans that the stuff in bottles is substantially different from the stuff out of the tap.
But empirical tests have repeatedly shown that they are generally the same. In blind taste tests, many people who swear they can differentiate between bottled-water brands and tap water fail to spot the differences, and studies have shown that both are fine to drink, and both occasionally can have quality problems.
The supply of clean drinking water across America and in many other countries is an underappreciated scientific and technological achievement that in many ways rivals putting a man on the moon. Trillions of dollars have been spent to get clean drinking water to people at virtually no cost — and it is people in precisely these countries who seem willing to pay premiums of 1,000 percent to 10,000 percent for bottled water.
As the wealthiest billion people on the planet increasingly turn to bottled water, moreover, the poorest billion have no little or access to clean water.
For example, one designer water we Westerns like to guzzle comes from Fiji. But the people of Fiji often lack drinkable water.