All the Christmas catalogues are in now. Every year I choose the gift that will make the greatest contribution to Western civilization. This year's award goes to Sakowitz of Houston, which advertised a swimming pool built in the shape of Texas and filled (I'm not making this up) with 30,867 gallons of Perrier water. The price tag is $127,174.32.
Little did I realize when I lived in Paris that someday Perrier, an innocuous soda water that comes from France, would become a status symbol in the same class with Dom Perignon champagne and Chivas Regal Scotch.
Americans are now drinking Perrier by the tank, and it's hard to believe -- though I have no evidence to doubt it -- that all the Perrier being consumed in the world comes from one underground spring.
While Perrier is a nice, tasteless bubbly drink, I think it would be very dangerous for the United States to become too dependent on it.
It is just like the French to get us hooked on their water and then threaten to pull the plug if we don't go along with them on everything they ask for in the Common Market.
The threat to this country of a Perrier-less society has not been faced up to. People are guzzling it like there is no tomorrow, and the few scientists who have warned that we could exhaust all the Perrier water in the world by the year 2000 have been ignored.
Hans Freidrich, an expert in the water market, paints an even gloomier picture.
In a paper just printed in the prestigious Bottled Water Journal "ZZZZZZ," Freidrich said that if Americans continue consuming Perrier at the present rate, the price of a six-ounce bottle now selling in a bar for $1.50 could rise to $5 for a regular glass and $6 with a piece of lime. b
"This means," he wrote, "that the middle and lower-imcome groups could be forced to drink domestic soda waters and, in some hardship cases, even tap water to supply their fluid needs."
Freidrich warns in his article that as more and more supertankers are used to supply Perrier to soda guzzlers in America, there will eventually be an accident off the Atlantic Coast, and, as he puts it, "We could see the largest soda water spill in history. No one knows what Perrier can do to a beach or wildlife when it mixes with salt water. A Perrier spill off the coast of a populous area could play havoc with the ecology of fishing grounds, and unless a method is found of bursting the bubbles before they hit the shore, people could be cleaning up their sands for years to come." t
Although admitting that there has to be a trade-off if the United States wishes to continue receiving supplies of Perrier from France, Freidrich believes Americans should concentrate on finding their own Perrier. He points out that at present prices it is at last economical to squeeze soda water out of shale rock. "A ton of shale rock," he says, "can now produce one six-pack of perrier-like water. With the help of the government we could be free of France's strangle-hold on us by 1989."
In the meantime, Freidrich advocates odd and even days for the drinking of Perrier and giving tax exemptions to U.S. bottled water companies that are willing to use their profits to drill for a comparable substitute for the French water.
He cited the Sakowitz department store by name as an example of why the country will soon be faced with a Perrier crunch.
"Any company that urges its customers to fill their swimming pools with imported soda water refuses to face reality. If God wanted us to dive into a pool of Perrier, He would never have put it in little green bottles."