There are not many victories for common sense in this world - I can't remember the last time I broke out the, "Y'see, I bloody knew it! Didn't I bloody tell you?!" bunting, but I think it might be time to celebrate once more. For it appears that the days of bottled water are now numbered.
Environment minister Phil Woolas has suggested that "it borders on morally being unacceptable" to spend hundreds of millions of pounds on the stuff while millions of people across the globe have no drinkable mains water. His comments do not on their own constitute a backlash, of course, but they do mean that the hitherto unassailable aqua-orthodoxy is now under siege. At last the cataract of concerns about the economic and ecological impact of packaging and importing water in plastic containers for people too imbecilic to re-use a bottle has percolated through sufficient social strata to make it safe, even for a politician, to suggest that a daily two litres of water filtered through volcanic rock and moonlight is not vital for the body's wellbeing, and that ingesting tap water will cause no organs to fail or pores to clog with toxins requiring expensive elimination at Twunt's Spa, East Sussex.
The rise of the bottled water industry is so recent that even I can remember my first sight of one of its overpriced units. The trendy girls at school started bringing in Perrier, and at first this looked like a more-or-less comprehensible fad. Pretty green bottle! Fizzy water! That at least conferred some sense of added value to justify the price.
Then the hydration hype spread until entire countries were awash. Water, water everywhere and most of it not even fizzy. Until that moment I had been profoundly confused by the odd cultural phenomena we kept being told about in history class - hooped skirts, whalebone corsets, footbinding. Why did nobody stand up and say, "Excuse me, but this makes no sense. We are crippling ourselves and are at high risk of appearing extremely stupid to future generations into the bargain"? Now I knew. To watch people who dressed themselves every morning, held down jobs and daily showed every sign of having the capacity for independent thought hand over oodles of cash to service the hydration needs that were once met by eating a bit of fruit and bringing a mug to a tap now and again, was to understand how rapidly insanity can become a cultural norm.
As the backlash begins, the descendants of these early-adopter morons will still stand by their decision to spurn free tap water and insist on devoting excessive proportions of their brief and precious lifespans on this earth to repudiating the notion that they are mindless, witless suckers for an international marketing con, and to limning the different tastes and merits of Volvic, Evian, San Pellegrino, etc.
Ah yes, everyone is a gourmand when it comes to the combination of hydrogen and oxygen - and this in a country in which the average palate can barely distinguish between beer and wine; in a country where the patron saint of food, St Delia of Norwich, can publish a cookery book encouraging people to buy ready-fried onions and frozen discs of mashed potato for shepherd's pie, proving that we still basically look at our plates, mentally grunt, "All here is merely turd-to-be" and start shovelling. And you want to denude your wallet and your planet to wash that down with bottled water?
But now it seems the waves of madness are beginning to recede. Raise a mug of your mains' finest to Mr Woolas et al and get ready to break out the bunting.