Think before you drink

You'd think the Northwest would know how to find good spring water, and to stay away from the purified stuff.

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Go for the stuff from springs.

You'd think the Northwest would know how to find good spring water, and to stay away from the purified stuff.

There is a bravery to eating and drinking what is put in front of you, a thankfulness and can-do spirit. But there is also a foolishness to it, a stupidity even, as one realizes the forces of manipulation. Water has waded into that foolishness.

Water is water — you can hear yourself saying such — but it is not true, not now and probably not ever.

We ordered a bottle water dispenser last spring, when the tap water in the building seemed to lose its brightness. Six five-gallon refill bottles, the plugged-in dispenser, and good cool water, especially for the summer. Six months later, every afternoon, I was getting a stomach ache, a kind of gnawing, metallic discomfort. At first, yogurt or an apple or carrots seemed to solve the ache. But it was always there, every afternoon. Finally I asked my wife what she thought it might be. She suggested a few things, the best I thought was that perhaps the water dispenser had developed an algae in the tap.

Good idea, we called the company, asking would they come and check, and the next morning, a young fellow shows up with a new dispenser on a hand truck. "I checked the dispenser, Mr. Miller, it seems fine but here is a new one anyway. I noticed you are drinking the purified water — you know, we always drink the spring water in the shop, the purified stuff gives some of us a stomach ache in the afternoon."

All of us looked at him — we had not mentioned the symptoms before! He went on: "The purified stuff is Everett tap water, it gets whacked at the plant and somehow that makes it hard for the stomach lining. Same stuff that Costco uses. Let me put you on for spring water, see if that makes a difference."

Next day, of course, no stomach ache, and none since. But a month later, at a soccer tournament on a very hot day, they were giving out bottled water as a promotion — and sure enough, there was that stomach ache, that metallic ache, back again. Purified water, right on the label.

I remember listening to three young Danish students talking about their spring trip to France. It was like food, the water in France, you could eat the water it was so good. I was envious that they could so easily know the distinctions and so fully enjoy the gift. In New Zealand, every town can tell you what spring their water runs from — even New Zealand Airlines can trace the water they serve.

We are very brave about water in the Northwest — using it, driving it, damming it, connecting it, counting on it, But walk off the Bainbridge ferry and the bottled water is Dasani, purified in Iowa, or Kirkland, purified in Everett. When any fool can tell you there are some brilliant fresh water springs on Bainbridge, three of them right by the ferry.

We are very brave about water, but not very bright.


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About the Authors & Contributors

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Peter Miller

Peter Miller is owner of Peter Miller Books, a store in Seattle specializing in architecture and design books. You can reach him in care of