Bottled water consumption
has grown exponentially over the past ten to fifteen years. This
growth has taken place globally, but particularly in Europe and
North America. The bottled water industry has literally created
its own water culture. For example, when one enters a gas station,
grocery store or a restaurant in any country of the world, one is
bound to find at least a few different brands of bottled water.
Bottled water is somewhat less likely to be found in developing
countries, where public water is least safe to drink. Many government
programs regularly disperse bottled water for various reasons. Distributing
small bottles of water is much easier than distributing large bulk
storages of water. Also contamination from large water storage containers
is much more likely than from single 12-20 ounce bottles of water.
Many countries have
become very oriented toward bottled water. According to a 2001 World
Wildlife Fund survey, individuals around the globe consume some
89 billion liters of bottle water annually, worth roughly $22 million.
Citizens of the U.S. alone consume about 13 billions liters of bottled
water. A 2000 report conducted by Yankelovich Partneers of the Rockefeller
University discovered that 2.3 eight-ounce servings of the total
6.1 servings of water that are consumed daily are bottled water
in the U.S. Bottled
So which areas of our
world are consuming the largest amounts of bottle water? Splash's
website provides a wealth of knowledge regarding who, what type,
regulations and an overview of the market. Below is a graph of 1999
Bottled Water Consumption in liters per person, courtesy of Splash's
Freshwater Newsletter. Surprisingly, Western Europe consumes almost
50% of the world's bottled water. Many claim that this is due to
European culture, since the continent has had very polluted waters
due to agriculture and industry dating back to the Industrial Revolution.
also states that roughly 59% of bottled water that is consumed is
purified, while the 41% is spring or mineral water. Most bottled
water (about 75%) originates from protected sources such as underground
aquifers and springs. Increases in bottled water consumption is
also a major issue. Below is a graph that explores the increase
from 1999-2001 for eight different regions globally.
compliments of World Wildlife Survey found at Splash
Benefits and Drawbacks
Although there are relatively
few regulations on what bottled water can contain, people have very
differing opinions on possible benefits and drawbacks of bottled
water. Currently there are multiple studies showing numerous bottled
water brands containing harmful substances. According to a four-year
scientific study by the Natural Resources Defense Council, over
a third of the tested brands contain contaminants such as arsenic
and carcinogenic compounds. This study of 103 different brands encompassing
over 1,000 bottles showed that one-third of the water in these bottles
exceeded state or industry safety standards.
earlier study by Ohio State University (found at Common
Dreams News Center) found that 39 out of 57 bottled water samples
did indeed have "purer" water than tap water. However,
15 samples had significantly high bacteria samples. The scientists
agreed that all of the water was safe to drink, but the study clearly
showed how claims of bottled water purity can be misleading. While
one can evaluate the chemical contents of water, most consumers
choose bottled water for its taste. A large majority of bottled
water consumers drink bottled water because they believe it has
better health benefits, and many consume such large quantities due
to its taste. Globally most people associate bottled water with
tasting better. However, when Good Morning America conducted a taste
test of its studio audience, New York City tap water was chosen
as the heavy favorite over the oxygenated water 02, Poland Spring
and Evian (Environmental
Some global agencies
such as the World Health Organization have neutral feelings regarding
possible health benefits or drawbacks from the consumption of bottled
water. On WHO's
website they claim that many European consumers believe that natural
mineral waters have medicinal or other health properties. WHO respects
these beliefs, but has been unable to find convincing evidence to
support the mineral water consumption benefits. There have been
few quality studies regarding health effects of drinking bottled
water. Many researchers believe that the benefits of bottled water
are based mainly on a common ideology.
Australian Bottled Water
Opinion and Acceptance
almost every country is accepting the "bottled water culture."
Millions of people get parts or all of their daily water values
from bottled water. A study done by Green Nature suggests that over
half of Americans drink bottled water, spending 240-10,000 times
more than tap water. At the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire,
where I attend college, the "bottled water culture" definitely
is in full swing. One cannot glance at a random student or faculty
member book bag without finding a bottle of water stowed inside.
Drinking bottled water is essentially a part of our culture today.
We can look at any local, national or international sporting event
and see the prevalence of bottled water. Apparently regular tap
water in a bottle or cup has slowly begun to be looked down upon.
Although many individuals will carry a reusable water bottle such
as a Nalgene, most bottled water containers are thrown away after
just one use. This may be due to the convenience of bottled water,
as it is almost more readily available than tap water.
of the Environmental Health Department at Boston University, claims
that the bottled water versus tap water debate boils down
to a mentality issue. He states, " I think the problem today
is that turning on your tap is an act of faith, and I'm not sure
that that act of faith is particularly well-placed." If you
drink from the tap, there are several recent studies you should
know about because they may change the way you think about your
up in Central Wisconsin surrounded by very high quality groundwater.
With small creeks and a Class A trout stream running through my
famly's property, I always felt safe drinking the surface water.
I have been raised on high-quality tap water from underground aquifers
and test after test has proven our water is safe for consumption.
I do understand why more urban residents are more prone to drinking
bottled water, but I do agree with Mr. Ozonoff that it is largely
a mentality issue. After traveling extensively in over 15 countries
in Asia and Europe, drinking water from a tap or bottle is essentially
the same thing. I believe many people just view "regular"
tap water as not having the best taste or question its source. In
reality however, all water flows regularly threw the hydrologic
cycle in only a short number of years, so source has very little
bearing after the purification processes. See the related link
How Groundwater Works for more information.
bottled water culture's recent explosion in the last decade is due
to many corporations' advertising efforts to promote the need to
drink "healthy" bottled water rather than tap water. Multinational
companies across the globe are racking in billions of dollars with
very little effort. The taking of "free" water and making
huge sums of money is a response to very loose restrictions on water
withdrawal. In areas with few or no restrictions companies are able
to sink high-capacity withdrawal wells and later implement bottled
water plants wherever they please. In 2001 according to Jeffrey
Hammon, bottled water industry revenues in the U.S. alone grew by
over 13%. According to research and consulting done by the Beverage
Marketing Corporation, the global bottled water industry has exploded
to over $35 billion. Americans alone paid $7.7 billion for bottled
water in 2002. In 2001, for example globally bottled water companies
produced over 130,000 million liters of water. This produced roughly
35,000 million dollars in revenue for the world's thousands of bottled
water companies in 2001. For more information see the International
Council of Bottled Water Association's website.
Areas for Bottling Operations
primarily target just a few areas to implement new bottling facilities.
Each country varies where they allow new facilities to be located.
In general most communities fight against corporations taking over
local springs and over pumping of groundwater, according to Alliance
for Democracy. Huge companies seek this water to fuel the demand
for bottled water because regular tap water or municipal water is
deemed poor quality. The corporations then make huge profits on
water they paid nothing or very little for from Mother Nature.
and concerned citizens are bringing water bottling plants to a halt.
According to Ratna Bhushan of the Hindu Business Line, in New Delhi,
India the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has clamped down on some
of the water bottling companies within their region. BIS shut down
the production of over 200 bottling plants in India in early 2004
because the plants did not submit test reports or had unsatisfactory
performance. Some of these plants included Bisleri, Coca-Cola's
Kinly and Kingfisher.
and Arlene Kanno have had similar battles with trying to prevent
Perrier from building a plant that would pump 500 gallons a minute
from the Town of Newport in central Wisconsin. The Concerned Citizens
of Newport won the battle even after the company tried to bribe
the community, hired lobbyists to further its plans, and even had
the support of the governor. These two examples are just mere glimpses
of what companies will try to make millions from having a new bottling
plant put into operation. Perrier moved its bottling plans to Michigan,
where it was defeated in 2003. For more information on bottled water
issues between citizens and corporate giants see the related webpage
Bottled Water Conflicts.
Bottled Water Companies
there are thousands of companies bottling water for profit. Many
of these corporations have grown exponentially. Almost all of these
corporations make phenomenal amounts of money on a resource they
pay very little for. I believe it a shame that we have quantified
water in so many areas of the world. One only has to look at industry
leaders such as Thames Water, Perrier, Vivendi, Suez, Pepsi and
Coca-Cola to see how their profit margins have been on a steady
increase over the last decade, in their bottled water divisions.
Bottled water companies fight not only concerned citizens within
local areas, but also fight each other in hopes of being the first
to establish their own bottling plants.
energy conglomerate RWE and French transnational Vivendi currently
are the two largest water corporations globally. These giants control
almost 40% of the existing water market shares as they are ranked
51st and 53rd among Fortune's Global 500 List. Vivendi alone operates
in over 100 countries while the third largest bottling water giant,
Suez, operates in more than 130 countries. Suez and Vivendi combined
annual revenues push $70 billion. (Public
bottled water companies have been criticized for their methods.
For example, in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, after American
Water Works had been sold to German based RWE, the managers of Nashua's
water company Pennichuck decided to post the local company for sale.
Then in April 2004, Pennichuck announced that it had received a
$106 million purchase offer from Philadelphia Suburban. This company
is the second largest investor-owned water utility in the United
States. Not surprisingly Vivendi, the huge French conglomerate and
one of the world's leading bottled water producers, owned 17% of
Philadelphia Suburban. Now the citizens of the greater area of Nashua,
New Hampshire are extremely concerned with who will own their public
water supply. See American
Friends Service Committee for more information on this and other
related stories. This example just goes to show how these huge multimillionaire
global bottled water corporations will try and get into any place
of the water market to further extend their economic domination.
bottled water industry is in a very powerful position, but is also
under increased scrutiny and criticism. I believe that bottling
companies have far too much control and are relatively uncontrolled
in most places globally. What will happen when our bottled water
consumption reaches the projected 50 billion liters by 2008? What
will happen when that figure doubles or triples in five or ten years
after 2008? I believe that bottled water consumers need to severely
limit our bottled water consumption, and alert these huge multinational
bottled water corporations of our disapproval of their practices.
The citizens of every nation in the world need to stop purchasing
bottled water and replace these containers with more durable and
reusable containers, such as those made by Nalgene, and make our
tap water of higher quality so we can rely on it for our drinking