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Bal Tashchis by water
Does the concept of Bal Tashchis apply by water? I had left my bottled water open overnight in my workplace and when I went to spill it out my coworker asked me as to why I was spilling it and when I told him because I don’t drink liquids that were left overnight [it’s more of a personal hygiene matter then something of Halacha] he told me that it could be a question of Bal Tashchis. I was surprised as I never really thought this concept should apply to water. Can you please clarify this matter.
While we find a dispute regarding the general question if the prohibition of Bal Tashchis applies to water, practically there is certainly no prohibition of Bal Tashchis in your case, being that you do not have an obligation to drink water which you don’t feel comfortable drinking, and if you would like to continue using the cup or bottle then you may spill out the water in order to refill it.
There are conflicting sources regarding the question of whether the prohibition of Bal Tashchis applies towards water. Some Poskim explicitly rule that it does not apply towards water. For the reason, some explain that water never gets lost and ends up getting reabsorbed into the ground even when discarded and hence there is never a prohibition of Baal Tashchis by water. Others however question this assertion and ponder or accept the notion of Baal Tashchis even by water. Furthermore, it is clear that in certain cases everyone agrees that there is a prohibition of Baal Tashchis even by water, as explicitly stated in the Talmud, Rishonim, and Alter Rebbe, that it is forbidden for one to close up a well due to the prohibition of Baal Tashchis. [While it can be learned according to Admur that the prohibition of Baal Tashchis applies to all water, one can argue that it only applies to a well and beverages other than water but not to a cup of water.] Likewise, even if one were to accept the notion that the prohibition of Baal Tashchis applies even to water, it is clear that we are much more lenient by water in the cases of allowance, such as to permit washing dishes with water, and discarding watering varies cases of Halachic stringency. Certainly, in your case it would be allowed.
Sources: See Chayeh Levi 6:198l; Avnei Derech 11:24; Eitz Hasadeh 28:4; Beis Matisyahu 3:32; Divros Eliyahu 8:30; Birchos Hashem 2:7 Poskim who rule that there is no prohibition of Bal Tashchis by water: Implication of Michaber O.C. 170:22; Maharsham 3:375; Daas Torah Y.D. 116:5; Eiyn Haroim Erech Bal Tashchis 16; Beis Yitzchal Y.D. 2:150; Birchos Hashem 2:7; Maaneh Eliyahu 18; Mayim Chaim 1:216; Poskim who rule that there is a prohibition of Bal Tashchis by water: Rabbeinu Yerucham 2:31 based on Yevamos 44a; Shaareiy Teshuvah 3:82; Maglei Eliyahu 3 Y.D. 61; Rav Chaim Kanievsky in Taama Dikra Chayeh Sara; Opinion of Admur: See Admir Hilchos Shemiras Guf Vinefesh Ubal Tashchis Halacha 14 “Or one who closes a wellspring or destroys food or drinks… Transgresses the negative commands of Al Tashchis”; Cases in which all agree that there is no Bal Tashchis with water: Washing dishes: [Michaber O.C. 170:22]