During emergency situations, such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and pandemics, certain staple household goods become hot commodities, often subject to moments of consumer “panic buying” as people doubt the short-term availability of such goods due to the crisis. The types of products subject to panic buying may be influenced by the specific type of emergency, but often include products such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, dry goods like pasta and rice, canned fruits and vegetables, and bottled water.
Unfortunately, panic buying is a self-fulfilling action. The perceived shortages that spark panic buying cause people to buy more than they need, thus creating a shortage and reinforcing the need to panic buy. So, people concerned about potentially closed supermarkets due to a pandemic will panic buy all the toilet paper and bottled water from the supermarket; others will observe this and become concerned that the supermarket will not be able to adequately restock these goods, and buy excessive amounts of the same goods as soon as they become available. The desire and need to panic buy spreads and feeds itself, creating a perpetual shortage of goods and perpetual anxiety and need to obtain these goods.
During an emergency, it is a valid concern that your water supply may be impacted. Earthquakes can damage municipal water mains. Hurricanes can cause sewage overflows and flood reservoirs with contaminated water. Pandemics may cause people to worry about contamination spreading through tap water or from people working at municipal water treatment facilities. And this concern ties into the panic-buying mindset, feeding the anxiety that causes people to want to buy as much bottled water as possible from stores, as a potentially safe source of water.
Therein lies the problem. Bottled water is a finite resource. As a finite resource, it is subject to size, storage, and supply constraints – applicable to the trucks transporting the product, the stores stocking them on shelves, and to consumers purchasing them and storing them in the home. Let us examine the following inherent limitations to bottled water:
- Bulk: Bottled water, particularly in the packages purchased for emergency supplies, is large and bulky. A case of dozens of bottles of water is heavy to carry and heavy to transport. It takes up a large amount of space in the home.
- Cost: Bottled water is vastly more expensive than tap water, taking a resource that costs fractions of a penny a gallon and inflating it to a cost of dollars per gallon – a thousandfold increase in price. During emergency situations and panic buying sprees, bottled water also becomes susceptible to price gouging, further increasing the cost as demand outpaces supply.
- Limited Quantity: There is only so much bottled water available at stores at any given time; once that is gone, customers must find another source of water. Once purchased, there is now a finite capacity of clean water at the home that must be rationed to maximize its availability.
- Waste: The creation of plastic water bottles itself is wasteful in that it relies on both vast quantities of oil and water. Once empty, each bottle contributes to further waste material that must be disposed of, whether through recycling or regular trash – at which point it may take hundreds of years to break down.
A more effective solution to a safe emergency water supply involves rendering the available water in the house safe to drink. With a heat source, water can be boiled to render it relatively microbiologically safe to drink. With liquid, powder, or tablet chlorine bleach, water can be chlorinated to treat the presence of microbial contaminants. With a carbon block filter, water can be filtered to treat the presence of a wide variety of contaminants, including heavy metals, chemicals, disinfection byproducts, and even parasitic cysts.
Something like a Multipure Water Emergency Treatment (WET) System can be stored in a closet or garage to be used during emergencies. With a WET System, most available water supplies – even water from a bathtub or the top tank of a toilet – can be rendered safe and healthy to drink. And because each of the two carbon blocks included in a WET System can filter up to 100 gallons of water, the filtered water supply can be used not just for drinking, but for washing, preparing, and cooking food. The use of an emergency filtration system is less bulky and less expensive than bottled water, while simultaneously providing greater quantities of clean water, with less material waste.
If you were not aware, the disposable bottled water industry is massive, with Americans consuming 15 billion gallons of bottled water in 2020 and sales passing $36 billion dollars – with these numbers expected to increase in the coming years. Bottled water has a vested interest in promoting itself as a reliable and responsible solution to clean water concerns, while also promoting itself as a healthier alternative to sugary soft drinks. But the fact remains that it is an expensive, limited, and short-sighted solution to clean water, especially during emergencies where panic buying only exacerbates the cost and limits of bottled water.
Better solutions to emergency water exist. Multipure serves as just one – albeit, superior – example of a better alternative to cleaner, safer water. During emergency situations, do not feed into the panic buying mentality that encourages excessive spending on goods you may or may not need. Instead, be prepared beforehand with an emergency filter solution, and the knowledge that you can create your own healthy source of safe water without the need for store-bought, expensive, bulky disposable plastic bottled water.
- Chua, Grace et al. “The Determinants of Panic Buying during COVID-19.” International journal of environmental research and public health vol. 18,6 3247. 21 Mar. 2021, doi:10.3390/ijerph18063247
- “Data shows bottled water remains in high demand among consumers.” Beverage Industry. May 18, 2021. https://www.bevindustry.com/articles/94119-data-shows-bottled-water-remains-in-high-demand-among-consumers
- Lufkin, Bryan. “Coronavirus: The psychology of panic buying.” BBC. March 4, 2020. https://www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200304-coronavirus-covid-19-update-why-people-are-stockpiling
- Taylor, Chloe. “Here’s why people are panic buying and stockpiling toilet paper to cope with coronavirus fears.” CNBC. March 11, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/11/heres-why-people-are-panic-buying-and-stockpiling-toilet-paper.html
- Wilson, Bee. “Off our trolleys: what stockpiling in the coronavirus crisis reveals about us.” The Guardian. April 3, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/news/2020/apr/03/off-our-trolleys-what-stockpiling-in-the-coronavirus-crisis-reveals-about-us