Charge for spring water – the French do, why not us?


by admin on April 30, 2014

By Melanie Scott

We had a kind of weird error pop up in a story about the Wakefield spring: we reported that, if the spring is monetized, the cost for a carboy fill-up would be $24 (the price tag belonged to the cost of making a sign, not the cost of quenching your thirst).

During copy editing, this did not jump out at me. Having spent four years in Switzerland, where everything from a sublet to a large latte costs 1,000 Swiss francs, $24 for an amply supply of cleaner-than-clean water seemed completely reasonable. Which is why we gotta thank the gods that we are blessed with a commodity that so many have to do without.

I’m on the fence about whether to charge or not charge for the water. On the one hand, just look at Evian in France, which is just a couple of hours away from where I used to live and to which I taxied many visiting friends (this was requisite, along with a visit to the Cailler chocolate plant and the Alps). There’s not much to see in Evian, but the water is pretty darn superb. As we reported in another previous issue, water sommeliers are becoming all the rage with the rich and fashionable, and Evian is probably this addict’s favourite flavour. So, we could capitalize on the spring and turn ourselves into a wee Evian-of-the-Hills.

On the other hand, why put a price tag on something that should cost nothing and be available to everyone on earth? The whole bottled designer water thing turned tap water sour, as folks started eschewing the free stuff in favour of the stuff that costs money. Which is a bit ridiculous. Unless you live in Montreal, where the water tastes pretty much like poo.

Come to think of it, water has a very strange reputation: on the one hand, it’s the stuff of life. On the other, we’re warned to not use it to brush our pearly whites when we’re travelling abroad.

Some years ago, I wrote a lengthy article on water, during which I tested my well water at three different labs. The results? One test indicated that we could go ahead and suck it back to our hearts’ content. The second said it was a bit iffy in the coliform department. And the third indicated it would kill us if it went anywhere near our internal organs. What’s very strange is that the well was over 100 years old and had supplied the previous owners of the house, and their ancestors, with drinking water for decades. And I don’t believe any of them died from encysted metacercaria exposure.

No doubt the to-charge-or-not-to-charge debate will continue until some kind of agreement is reached (or not: human beings have a way of carrying arguments on for centuries). Until then, let’s thank our lucky stars. When we’re thirsty, we can saunter over to the spring and get a drink. Unlike the 783 million people on this planet who have to do without.

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