Before we get stuck into this issue, let’s be clear: the last thing we want to do is be in conflict with the bottled water sector.
We’ve always said that the goal of our London On Tap – www.londonontap.co.uk – campaign is simply to promote the quality of Thames Water’s tap water and remind Londoners that they have a choice – bottled OR tap – when they’re out for a meal or a drink.
And in these gloomy economic times, it’s worth remembering that a 250ml glass of tap water costs less than a fortieth of a penny – a good deal cheaper than bottled options. So much so, in fact, that it won’t even show up when the waiter brings you your bill.
But cheap, in this instance, absolutely does not mean scrimping on quality.
Just ask the Drinking Water Inspectorate, the water industry’s water quality watchdog, which has rated our tap water the best of all the major water and sewerage companies in England and Wales for the past two years.
Right now Thames Water’s tap water is the best it’s ever been – 99.99 per cent compliant with national and European standards.
This achievement has not happened by accident. It comes on the back of three years of sound investment, resulting last year in Thames Water turning in its best-ever operational performance – best-ever water quality, best-ever sewage works compliance and leakage reduction targets hit three years in a row. That’s not according to us. That’s what Ofwat, the water industry regulator, says about us.
Endorsements like this have given the London On Tap campaign the gravitas needed to bring about a change in Londoners’ behaviour when it comes to ordering tap instead of bottled water in bars and restaurants. Where previously they may have felt compelled to order pricier, less eco-friendly bottled alternatives, people are now increasingly opting for tap.
The international charity WaterAid revealed in March 2009 that tap water is the preferred choice for 68% of people when they dine out. To bring about this change in the way people view tap, we ran a competition for London-based designers to make a stylish carafe in which to serve the capital’s first-class water.
The winning entry was Neil Barron’s iconic ‘Tap Top’ carafe, with its four non-drip spouts in the shape of a traditional tap head.
Tap Tops have now been mass-produced from recycled glass and are now being used by more and more eateries and bars across London.
But it’s all very well having the finest drinking water in the land and the smartest carafes in which to serve it. We also need good, sturdy pipes to carry our water to customers’ taps.
With this in mind, Thames Water recently passed the milestone of replacing 1,000 miles of worn-out Victorian pipes under London – an achievement that has helped cut leakage by a quarter in the past four years.
This work started in earnest in 2003 and by the end of 2009, 1,300 miles of old mains – enough to stretch 11 times around the M25 – will have been replaced with tough, new plastic pipework less prone to bursts and leaks.
I digress. Back to the tap-v-bottled debate. Here are some facts and figures, which may shed some light on it:
– Bottled water costs 500 times more than tap water (Consumer Council for Water) – the equivalent of paying £1,500 for a pint of beer or glass of wine.
– Bottled water carries more than 300 times the CO2 emissions per litre than the average bottled brand. (Thames Water 2009)
– A litre of Thames Water tap water accounts for 0.0003kg of CO2.
– Thames Water calculates that its tap water costs around 0.097p – less than a tenth of a penny per litre.
– 70 per cent of people say the price of mineral water in restaurants is ‘too expensive’ and want to see free tap water readily available. (National Consumer Council – 2007)
– 92 per cent of people say they should have the right to free tap water
– The average Briton drinks 37.6 litres of bottled water each year (Bottled Water Information Office)
– 2.7m tonnes of plastic are used to bottle water each year worldwide (Earth Policy Institute – 2006)
– In 2006, 1.5million barrels of oil were used to make the 26bn litres of bottled water sold in the US – enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year. (EPI, 2006)
For more on this visit the London On Tap website, www.londonontap.co.uk.