Water on the Brain
Author Elizabeth Royte chats about the bottled-water boom and backlash
BY MICHELLE NIJHUIS
18 Jul 2008
Journalist Elizabeth Royte drinks tap water, but she spends a lot of time thinking about the bottled kind. In her new book, Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, Royte investigates the causes and consequences of the bottled-water industry's astounding growth.
With her refillable water bottle in hand, Royte travels to Fryeburg, Maine, where a water-pumping operation for Nestle's Poland Spring label divides the town. In the course of her research, she also tastes fancy bottled waters with a water connoisseur, monitors her eight-year-old daughter's water intake, and conducts an informal poll of friends and acquaintances, asking whether they know where their tap water comes from. "Most people, even those who knew exactly how many miles the arugula on their plate had traveled, had no idea," she writes. Royte's own tap water comes from the famously high-quality New York City system -- a network of reservoirs that, with the blessing of the U.S. EPA, makes up the largest unfiltered water supply in the nation.
Grist recently caught up with Royte to talk about hydration myths, anti-bottle mayors, and water snobbery.