This article, written by the American Ground Water Trust was originally published in
THE AMERICAN WELL OWNER, 2000, Number 2
IS BOTTLED WATER JUST WATER IN A BOTTLE?
Why do people buy and drink bottled water? What is so special about bottled water when compared with tap water from a private well or water utility? Probably at least half of the US population now drinks at least some bottled water each year. Annual sales are in the order of $4 billion involving close to 4 billion gallons. That amounts to over 100 pints of bottled water per person per year. Most bottled water companies believe themselves to be in the beverage business, not in the water supply business. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has regulated bottled water as a packaged food since 1938.
The marketing of bottled water plays heavily on images such as clear springs, crystal pools and glaciers. Water bottles may picture scenes of snow-capped peaks even if the actual source may be a well in a suburban area hundreds of miles from the nearest mountain. While there is no doubt that natural (untreated) ground water is likely to be safer to drink than natural (untreated) surface water, a spring source is not in itself a guarantee of safe drinking water. The source may have great image appeal to consumers but the actual content of the bottle should be more significant. Although about 75% of bottled water is from ground water sources, a growing proportion is simply bottled tap water that may have been given extra filtration to remove the taste of chlorine.
Fortunately the bottled water industry has a good track record of producing a high quality product. Over 85% of US bottled water is supplied by members of the International Bottled Water Association who are bound by its Model Code quality assurance program. All bottled water has to conform to FDA standards and many states have additional regulations.
Tap water supplied by utilities is subject to strict federal and state water quality standards. While there may be occasional local quality problems or contamination incidents, virtually all drinking water supplied by utilities and by properly constructed private wells is safe to drink. The US water utility and ground water industries are world leaders in providing quality water for their citizens.
So why are bottled water sales soaring? Convenience and taste are two reasons. Bottled water sales are now about 10% of the value of all soft drink sales. Health trends have turned many people to water as their beverage of choice. There is a great need for additional consumer awareness about the sources, treatment, and distribution of water used for drinking. Bottled water is not all created equal - and for that matter not all tap water is created equal. Purchasing bottled water at up to 1000 times the cost of tap water is a consumer decision that should be based on a rational cost/benefit assessment. As you munch your triple cheeseburger and fries, you might also want to consider the relative importance of lifestyle choices related to health concerns!
For more information about the bottled water industry you can contact the International Bottled Water Association at http://www.bottledwater.org
[© American Ground Water Trust. This article may be reprinted for non-commercial educational purposes provided it is used in its entirety and that reference is made to its source as an article in THE AMERICAN WELL OWNER, 2000, Number 2]