The water crisis has been a “hot topic” in recent years. By synthesizing some of the existing literature on this subject, this thesis aims to encourage Americans, particularly those people less familiar with the topic, to start thinking about water issues in a new way, specifically by thinking in systems. Drawing from Donella Meadows, Thomas Hughes and concepts such as complex adaptive systems, it frames the problems with bottled water, and the drinking water distribution system, more generally, in a particular way. More specifically, this paper analyzes the water distribution system by breaking it into two main parts––the municipal water supply and the bottled water industry––and also analyzes these components as a whole system. In addition, the paper highlights health, safety, environmental and social justice issues surrounding the nation’s failing water system. Because the water system crisis can be interpreted as a symptom of larger problems faced by society, thinking in systems for this particular case is a meaningful exercise applicable to understanding other sustainability issues.



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