Last year, I did some research for an idea that never materialised. I had it in mind that a product test of bottled water would be quite funny, but the reason I thought that was why, ultimately, it was not worth doing. Recently, this came up in a conversation, and I was told that I should do it, because it was a funny idea… I’m still not totally sure.
My research involved buying up various brands of bottled water over a couple of weeks: these names included Evian, Volvic, Buxton, Tesco Ashbeck Water, Tesco Perthshire Water, Highland Spring, Acqua Panna, Glaceau SmartWater, Fiji Artesian Water, Voss Water from Norway. I also made sure to try our tap water at home, and the Brita-filtered tap water from the break room at work. I restricted my purview to still water, finding sparkling water to be as hard to drink as tonic water, and envisaged creating tables and charts that led to the single, inevitable conclusion:
IT ALL TASTES THE SAME!!! There is only so much water you can take before you realise it is all just water. For there to be any more to it means it is no longer water. Water, water everywhere, and it costs so bloody much. Give me a Victorian-style drinking fountain any day, then a bottle to fill up.
I kind of expected to find I had wasted my money but, apart from a slight difference in the taste of the tap water, coming from the large chalk deposits where I live, having only one available answer to your experiment leaves you unable to form a decent joke. Therefore, chastened, I abandoned the idea, and wrote about typewriters instead.
However, the abundance of bottled waters from which I could choose is, to me, a bit perverse. It was the British that started to bottle water in the 17th century, transporting the perceived health benefits of the Malvern springs across the country. Taking a “water cure” was popular in Victorian times, evoking Roman spas like those at Bath, where its sulphurous hot spring, more to bathe in than drink, was touted as a way of restoring your “vital fire” as much as curing “the Scratch.”
Even then, if water is water, why do we go so far for it? Why was I able to walk for fifteen minutes from home to a shop that sells artesian water from Fiji, which is nearly ten thousand miles away? Why does the supermarket Tesco have an English brand of water (Ashbeck) and a Scottish brand (Perthshire)? Why does paying the extra for a glass bottle, over a PET plastic bottle, make water taste nicer? Why have I been buying Evian for the sole reason that I think the bottle looks nicer, rather than what is in the bottle? Why will there only ever be questions, when I know it is just water?
That said, good drinking water can be hard to find, but bottles of it are always found where it is already plentiful.