Your browser (Internet Explorer 7 or lower) is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites. Learn how to update your browser.

Enough with the bottled water: Filter it!

Can you grasp how much 32 billion of anything is?

A million I can picture: that’s a thousand groups of 1,000 of something, say water bottles. Got it.

But a billion is a thousand million, which would be, with water bottles, a thousand of those groups of a thousand groups of 1,000 water bottles. And my mind can’t grasp that.

Which is why I’m so happy that Aquitaine Bistro in Dedham is serving water that has been filtered and carbonated in-house — in place of branded, single bottles.

Americans last year bought somewhere north of 32 billion individual bottles of water, according to the D.C.-based, non-profit, Food and Water Watch. And even though some got recycled (about 20 percent), producing and transporting the product uses a mind-boggling variety and amount of resources: Big carbon footprint. And equally bad – or worse – is the fact that we’re burying ourselves in waste.

Enter Aquitaine in Dedham and Davio’s in Foxborough, which are among the first South Shore restaurants to be using high-end filtering systems that turn tap water into purified, delicious water.

And, not only do the systems filter the water, but they can carbonate it, too.

“It’s a lot more eco-friendly – we’re not throwing away a ton of glassware,” said Brian Kelley, assistant general manager at Aquitaine in Dedham, which serves glass liter bottles – still or sparkling — for $6. Once a bottle is purchased, servers refill it at no additional cost during the meal.

Aquitaine has a racking system of clean bottles at a service station and still or carbonated water on tap, much like draft beer.

“At first we were a little unsure how it would go over, but we were pleasantly surprised,” said Kelley. “When servers offer it, most people don’t go back. We love the water. We’ve stopped selling Pellegrino.”

Davio’s, which opened at Patriot Place two years ago, has always sold only house-filtered water. Owner Steve DeFillippo was among the very first to embrace this exponentially escalating trend at his Boston Davio’s several years ago.

“Steve put it in not as a profit thing, but because he’s environmentally conscious,” said Paul Flaherty, general manager of Davio’s Foxborough. “He’s also all about the guest and the flavor of the food, and guests love the water.”

Davio’s in-house filtering and carbonating system is manufactured by a local company: Wrentham’s AquaHealth.

Of course, I adore all this since I’m so bothered by the landfill problem. And, I must admit, too, that it irks me to pay $15 or more (with the tip it ends up being more like $18 to $20) for a couple bottles of water for a party of four. But, a liter for six bucks that gets refilled is much more palatable.

In downtown Chicago last year, at Osteria via Stato, a lovely restaurant just off Michigan Avenue, we were offered house-filtered still or sparkling water for free! Our waiter told us that it was the new thing in many of the city’s restaurants.

In the Boston area, in-house filtration is rare, never mind free. But, even at $6 a liter — with a free refill — I’m very happy.

So, restaurants are on track for transitioning to filtration systems, but what about home users?

About four years ago, I traded in our biweekly deliveries of bottled water for an under-the-sink, three-part filtration system designed to treat the particular contaminants in our water supply [shown here]. (The man who sells the system I bought read a water report from the water company that supplies my town, and customized a system that cost less than $300, uninstalled.) It produces great-tasting water and we’ve been really happy with it. Once a year, we change the filters, which costs about $100. Every day I refill a water bottle and stow it in my bag!

But I still found myself buying sparkling water, which got me thinking.

Turns out there are home carbonation systems, and the best reviews are for a company called SodaStream.

And, since it was my husband’s birthday last week (and he doesn’t ever want anything) I bought him what I wanted — a SodaStream at William Sonoma. I got the top model – the Penguin Water Carbonator ($200, shown at left), which comes with two pretty glass bottles with fizz-preserving stoppers and two refillable carbon dioxide canisters. (Each canister will carbonate about 60 liters and can be traded in at the store, or by mail, for a full one for $15.)

And, it’s delicious and fun and takes less than a minute to make a liter!

You simply fill the bottle with water, place it in the device, lower a top part that locks the bottle in, and press a lever a couple times. You can make the water more or less carbonated by pressing two or three times. You then press a button that makes a big hiss (like the hiss of opening a carbonated bottle), unlock the maker and viola: you’ve got a liter of delicious sparkling water! [see photo above]

It stays carbonated for at least a day, hissing when you open it.

So, now I’m a self-generating water woman, and I’m loving the whole thing.

Check out AquaHealth in Wrentham at; Watch a video of the Penguin at work here, and contact Jim McMahon at 435-574-2711 or on his website for a home filtration system customized to your water.