A little kerosene with that bottle of water? | AspenTimes.com

A little kerosene with that bottle of water?

Ed Quillen

The Colorado Water Workshop in Gunnison this year focused, in part, on the connection between energy and water. We use water to generate energy, as with various hydroelectric plants, and we use energy to generate water, as with every well that has a pump.

But there’s another connection that came up recently when I learned that Nestle, a multinational firm headquartered in Switzerland, planned to buy the Hagen Springs, near Nathrop here in Chaffee County, and put the water in bottles of Arrowhead, the company’s brand of “mountain spring water.”

At first this sounded promising ” some good year-round jobs at a new bottling plant in Chaffee County. But then I learned that there will be only one permanent local job, that of a caretaker at the springs. The operation will be the traditional colonial relationship of exporting raw materials on the cheap, while all the value-added stuff happens somewhere else.

Nestle has been shopping for augmentation water to replace the 0.3 cubic feet per second of water that it plans to haul out of this basin. That works out to about 135 gallons per minute, or 194,400 gallons per day, which weighs 811 tons.

This will go to the Denver bottling plant, not by pipeline or rail, but by truck. I called a local trucking company, where the manager explained that the maximum loaded weight allowed on highways like U.S. 285 is 85,000 pounds, or 42.5 tons. An empty semi tractor and tanker weigh about 15 tons, she said, so the payload will be about 27.5 tons.

Divide that into the 811 daily tons of water to haul, and it works out to 30 round-trips a day.

The trucking manager said big semis ” averaging full and empty ” get 4.5 miles per gallon. Figure 250 miles from Nathrop to Denver and back, and each round trip will consume about 56 gallons of fuel to haul 6,480 gallons of mountain spring water.

Divide that out, and the result is that the transport of each liter of water requires about 1.74 teaspoons of diesel fuel. Since diesel fuel and kerosene are pretty much that same, this inspires a proposal for a new labeling system: the Equivalent Kerosene Quotient, or EKQ (also my initials).

If it were in effect, then the label on every liter bottle of Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water would be required to list, in type big enough to read without a magnifying glass, something like “1.74 teaspoons EKQ,” and the smaller type could explain that “Even though you do not taste or imbibe the EKQ in this product, that is the amount of kerosene required merely to transport from spring to bottling plant. Other EKQ will be added during the process of bottling, as well as transport to retailers and refrigeration afterward. Further, this does not include the EKQ of any petrochemicals used in making the bottle.”

People are concerned about their “carbon footprints” these days, but I’m sure I’m not the only one who has trouble deciding whether it’s better to go back home to get the cloth shopping bags after you get to the supermarket and realize you’ve forgotten them, or to just go ahead and consume some plastic bags. Does the hot water required to clean cloth diapers leave a bigger carbon footprint than the manufacture of disposable diapers?

These questions can be difficult to answer. But the EKQ on bottled water is fairly simple to calculate, and the thought of swallowing kerosene, even in a mathematical sense, might inspire consumers to make judicious choices on at least one product.