Instigator / Pro

Bottled water


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics
Better arguments
Better sources
Better legibility
Better conduct

After 4 votes and with 28 points ahead, the winner is...

Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
One week
Max argument characters
Voting period
One month
Point system
Multiple criterions
Voting system
Contender / Con

Background: Bottled water has been indicted as a waste of money and environmental disaster. I will defend it as adding value to lives.

Resolved: Bottled water is a net good for society

5,000 character limit per round in the interests of brevity


I will waive round 1 by stating only the following in round 1: "Round 1 waived per debate rules."
You will waive round 3 by stating only the following in round 3: "Round 3 waived per debate rules."
I will not be permitted to respond to your round 1 until round 3.
I will not be permitted to respond to your round 2.
Voters are instructed to disregard any response I make in violation of these rules, except that it may be considered a conduct violation.

The purpose of the foregoing rules is to conduct the debate in a manner which eliminates the contender's advantage and also to deprive my opponent of any opportunity to take advantage of me posting my case first. I'd also rather not do the work to construct a case unless I know that my opponent will not flake out.

These are my terms against a random people who I have not vetted. It is essentially a two round debate of 5,000 characters each where neither of us has the last word, effectively, as I'm not permitted to respond to your round 2. If you have a debating history which suggests a low probability that you'll flake out, then feel free to make application for rule changes in the comments.

Round 1
Round 1 waived per debate rules.
Many thanks to my opponent for this debate. I will dive right in!

Bottled water is a net good for society

Resolution: this resolution is understood to mean that the benefits of bottled water (BW) - as it stands today - outweigh its harms - as compared to available and practical alternatives.

These are outlined as follows:

Producing BW requires the energy of between 32-54m barrels of oil/33 Bn l (2007) [1]. With current production of 390bn l, and assuming doubled efficiency since then, this is 160-260mbl of oil per year. 2000x  that of tap water.[1]

This causes environmental harms from oil and gas extraction for PET/PP to make bottles; and contributes to Climate Change. There is an Air pollution component from Burning PET too- with carcinogenic VOCs released into the air from the 12% of plastic burned in the US [7] and worse in developing nations where most waste is burnt.[8]

Much PET/PP plastic waste from BW ends up in marine environments with the US and China recycling only 30% [3][4] of bottles. Only a small fraction is recycled into bottles with most being downcycled into textiles [4].

It can impair oceanic oxygenation; due to its effect on algae, phytoplankton[5] and zooplankton[6], and accumulate in the food chain. Given the vast quantities of these plastics in the environment, there is significant risk of profound harm due to BW waste.

BW can come from locations of severe drought - water scarcity in California specifically is exacerbated by BE produced there.[9]

Impact on sanitation:
The best solution for unsafe water is municipal purification that provides safe water without major impact. The reliance on and normalization of BW erodes expectations that such utilities can or will be able to provide clean water [10]. This lack of expectation reduces pressure on governments to invest. Thus BW stands in the way of safe drinking water for all.

Source of Potable water:
BW has the benefit of being a source of potable water, its benefit can be calculated:

China uses 10.4bn[11] gallons of BW; with estimated deaths attributed to water pollution of 60k[12] . With a population of 1.44bn, and 185 gallons per person/year, this works out as water for ~54m people - at the above rate; this works out as 2.6k lives saved. India (1bn gallons[11], 1.3bn people, 200k deaths[13] ), the total saved is 7.5k. 

Or in other words, two countries that make up more than 1/3th of the worlds population, at the very best ~10k lives are saved by BW.

Developing countries:
In much of the world, tap water quality is similar to that of BW. While bottled water is most convenient for emergency preparedness, or temporary water issues; other storage methods, water filtration, purification, and water boiling are viable and affordable [14][16]

Water purification and filtration be used in preference to bottled water around the globe. Their availability means that there is an available alternative to BW[15]. On China, at 4yuan ($0.6)per litre for bottled water, many filtering options are comparable affordable[16]. Given such an available alternative, the benefits above can be fully realized by other options.

Overall this means that the benefit is primarily an issue of convenience rather than necessity.

Inaction on climate change in 2020 is estimated to be $5Tn per year[17]; $210bn from natural disasters last year alone[18] - not counting indirect economic harm. Air pollution from fossils fuels and manufacturing kills 10m[19] per year, with climate change linked to 5m[20] deaths and displacing 55m[21]. Using the low estimate of 160m barrels equivalent -  0.45% of global usage - the calculable impact is $26bn dollars, 75k deaths, and 225k displaced persons.

We can add to this intangible risks of existential ecological damage to the marine environment; exacerbating droughts, and preventing clean water for all.

This must be weighed against the positive aspects of BW, which as shown is at best that bottled water simply provides convenience.

Lives ended or displaced, massive ecological damage, and critical implications of bottled water above most be put ahead of issues of simple convenience:

Thus one must conclude that bottled water is a net harm to society.


Round 2
In light of my opponents forefeit - I will extend my arguments.

While my opponent appears to have conceded in the comments: just to cover all possibilities - as the debate rules preclude any further response from me, voters should ignore any argument my opponent offers in the final round, and award me the win on the basis that he has not offered a constructive argument - and I have no ability to respond to any constructive argument he provides in the final round.
Round 3
Round 3 waived per debate rules