Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Water, Water, everywhere...

...But from where is it you drink?

Related to this year's Elora Sculpture Project contribution : 'Legacy'

Design Rough
For a fuller description of Legacy, see an earlier blog post.

As you can see above, Legacy consists of a light metal framework, shaped in a pyramid, with plastic water bottles attached over the outside.
Quite a few bottles as it turns out.
About 200.

Thanks to my local dump, I was allowed to pull clear plastic 500 ml bottles out of those deposited into the recycle bins. It took a number of weekly trips to accumulate enough.
Thanks also goes to Vandy Simpson, who gathered water bottles from the re-cycle at Theatre Orangeville.

The ideal to back up the original concept for Legacy would have been to gather all the bottles as trash. As you might guess, the large number needed over the relatively short time frame for the creation of the piece made this unlikely.

As it turned out, there was some interesting cultural indications that came out of my collection method:
1) 'Disposable' water bottles were most commonly found collected up with other re-cycleables inside those blue transparent bags. (rather than found loose, which would have been collected in a 'blue box'.
This shows something about the mind set of those most likely to either purchase or at least collect up, water bottles.
2) Almost without exception, any bag that had water bottles, had a dozen or more water bottles.
This indicates that those who purchased / collected water bottles bought them in case lots as regular practice.
3) Most commonly, those bags holding water bottles also held a considerable collection of either wine or craft beer bottles / cans.
This interesting because those individuals may have undertaking re-cycling, but not bothered with the more effective 'return for deposit' method on alcohol containers (long in force in Ontario!).

I had always intended to pull off the individual maker's labels from the bottles to be attached to the sculpture. As it turns out, Nestle uses a distinctive bottle shape, so even just as the clear plastic, it is easy to tell which are from that company - so also the water well source. Remember that Elora resident concern about Nestle's planned expansion with increased local extraction is part of the point to Legacy.

Just where did all those bottles, and more importantly the water contained in them, come from?
One of the problems is that most company brands are very cagey about exactly where the actual well pipe is physically located.

Of the roughly 250 bottles I have gathered, here are some indications:

In terms of raw numbers, the largest number were 'Real Canadian' followed by 'Compliments' and 'Great Value'.

'President's Choice' (two different labels), and 'Real Canadian' are both brands for Loblaw's.
'Compliments' is the brand for Sobeys.
'Great Value' is the brand for Walmart

All of the above indicate 'Feversham' as the source location.
The 'Selection' brand, of which there were a smaller sample, lists 'Grey Highlands' - which is where Feversham is physically located.
'Ice River Green' is one of the actual house brands for the Ice River Springs operation. Out of the roughly 250 bottles collected, these accounted for only three.
However : fully 75% of the bottles collected indicate 'Feversham' as the source. This is the Ice River Springs extraction / bottling operation. *

I made a brief and casual survey by a few friends located around Ontario. It appears that in their local stores, those same brands all still give Feversham as the source. 

Nestle's 'Pure Life' made up roughly 25% of the total.
The source is given as 'Aberfoyle'
The small sample of the 'Kirkland' brand (from Costco) is given as 'Wellington County'.
Note that Aberfoyle is in Wellington County

I've included 'Aquafina', although there were only a very small number of these - and all were included in the same bag of recycles.
I consider this almost amusing, since if you read the source information on that label, you find 'Aquafina' is actually municipal *tap water* that has been additionally filtered. 

The original intention of 'Legacy' is to illustrate the extreme longevity of plastic bottles in the environment. Those bottles so casually purchased - and thoughtlessly tossed away - will endure for 400 - 500 years.
This is longer than European settlement in North America.

Clearly however, just as an important a consideration is the actual water those bottles contained - the reason for their existence, at all.

The overall environmental impact - and cultural implications, of the 'fad' of bottled water, even a concept of 'needed water consumption', in current Ontario is almost staggering.

* 1) A look through the Ice River Springs web site contains much information about their use of re-cycled plastics.
I could find nothing at all about what volume of water they actually extract.
2) The extraction / bottling plant is located roughly 7.5 km from my home at Wareham. 
3) This summery was included on my original blog posting describing 'Legacy'
When the Ice River Springs industrial bottling plant was put into operations at near by Feversham in 2002, I started having heavy levels of clay silt in my own well water. A filled glass coffee pot, if left for 10 minutes, would have a deposit settle out which completely covered the bottom. This problem persisted for about six months. I have a deep well (about 150 - 175 feet), so drawing water out of the limestone of the Niagara Escarpment. This is well below a thick red clay layer about 20 - 30 feet thick laying about 30 feet down here. That effectively seals that ancient water from any surface effects (contamination) - or modern replacement of the aquifer. 
It is illustrative that on the Ice River Springs web site - there is no mention of exactly how much of this ancient water is being pulled out, bottled, and shipped away to consumers.

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February 15 - May 15, 2012 : Supported by a Crafts Projects - Creation and Development Grant

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