An average 143 liters of bottled water per person were sold in Germany last year. Aggressive marketing by beverage companies tries to present the proffered bottled water as being of superior quality, and thus healthier than water from the tap. Without question, water has become a lifestyle product. However, the quality of tap water is at least equal to, and often even exceeding that of the bottled product. Municipal waterworks are required by law to control the water’s purity. With several measurements performed each day, tap water is Germany’s most rigorously regulated food.
Unlike bottled water, tap water provides clean and safe drinking water for little money, efficiently transported and completely forgoing the need for packaging. Comparing the energy footprint, bottled water preforms rather miserably. Bottled water requires oil for packaging and consumes CO2 during transportation, with a possible recycling of the actual bottle adding even more energy to the bill. In general, the pollution factor eclipses the use of the tap by at least a hundredfold.
The commercialization of bottled water is a worldwide phenomenon. Beverage manufacturers extract water even from arid regions, bottle it and sell it back to the needy at a healthy profit. Water, natural resource and staple of life, has become a commodity – and for global companies a lucrative business.
“Water Drops” is a series of photograms capturing waves in motion in their most basic form: A blacked-out studio. Water dropping out of a medical drip suspended from the studio’s ceiling. Single drops, falling ten feet into a tray of water below. A flash triggers on each drop’s impact, etching the circular shadows of the resulting waves onto the photo paper at the tray’s bottom.
Whether coming from the tap or a bottle, Germany’s drinking water is perfectly safe for consumption. Regarding its quality, there are no distinguishing differences to be found. The price difference between the respective sources, however, is significant.
For “Water Drops” I used water offered by different providers and companies. And as the proportional price differences between the water sources became an undeniable part of the artistic concept, it was translated into the price of their pictures.
The most cost-effective, but in no way “cheapest”, water is offered by the Berlin Municipal Waterworks at just 0.0018 EUR per liter. One liter of “Pure Life” by Nestle is 168 times more expensive, thus resulting in a Nestle picture price of 756.000,- EUR.
And yet, the water remains the same…