Things could not be more different today with bottled water available everywhere, in sizes, shapes and standards of quality to suit the needs of all. The explosion in bottled water, now sold almost exclusively in plastic bottles has led to a serious waste problem: water bottles contribute a significant proportion of the 13 billion plastic bottles sold annually in the UK.
Contrary to the general tone of this blog, I cannot but hope for the death of certain objects, not least the plastic drinks bottle. The Observer reports how the installation of new water fountains in London may mark the first step to a serious reduction or indeed ban of plastic water bottles.
In recent years dairy suppliers and a number of supermarkets in Britain have been experimenting with new types of packaging milk, following initiatives in other countries to reduce the use of plastic liquid containers.
The milk industry's flagship scheme to replace plastic milk bottles and plastic coated cardboard is JugIt, a reusable jug and refill pouches. Although this is hardly a return to the almost dead and iconic glass pint milk bottle (please rinse and return), it is a step in the right direction to reduce packaging and lorry journeys.
The mineral water lobby seems more reluctant to rethink the plastic bottle. As the Observer report on London water fountains suggests, bottled water companies will resort to any tactic to ensure consumption of their lucrative liquid does not decline.
The introduction of new water fountains in a bid to discourage the purchase of bottled water should be applauded, however, it is unfortunate that the thirsty will be charged for the privilege to drink from one of these new machines. This fits into the terrible logic of a certain international beverage conglomerate that sees clean water not as a fundamental right, but a product to be marketed and sold.
For some time drinking fountains have been disappearing from streets and parks, and charges will only further hasten their decline. While I look forward to writing the obituary for the plastic bottle, I fear that of the drinking fountain will come first.