Almost two-thirds of bottled water in the US comes from tap water

Published by Felipe Wasserstein on

February 28th, 2018

Almost two-thirds of bottled water in the US comes from tap water, costing the consumer 2,000 times more than tap water, according to a recent report.

The report from NGO Food and Water Watch highlights the marketing strategies used by bottled water industries when selling a product that is supposed to be purer than tap water.

However, most of this water (64 per cent) comes from the tap, meaning that Americans are unknowingly paying considerably more for the same water they can drink from the tap, the report finds.

A gallon of bottled water in the US costs almost 2,000 more than tap water and is four times more expensive than gasoline.

The consumption and sales of bottled water grew considerably from 2010 to 2016, even suppressing soda sales in 2016.

Large beverage companies are now using bottled water as the main source of profit in the US and as a substitute for declining soft drink sales.

Such market strategies are designed to promote the safety of bottled water for people without access to tap water, particularly recent immigrants, the report finds.

Plastic Bottles Photo: Daniel Orth

They also include groups that mistrust tap water and communities who are concerned over obesity and the sugar levels in drinks.

In 2014, Nestle invested more than $5 million in advertising their US bottled water brand, Pure Life. About three quarters ($3.8 million) went to Spanish-language television advertising.

Bottle water companies also profited through the depletion of local water supplies, according to the report, such as when Nestle pumped the water from California, following a recent historic drought in 2016.

“While Nestlé and other bottlers are profiting off of our public water supplies, critical water infrastructure problems are worsening,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch.

“These water barons not only prey on distrust of tap water, but they also help reinforce that distrust through lobbying to enact policies to keep the bottled water profits flowing,” added Ms Hauter.

The production of bottled water can also harm the environment, with about 70 per cent of water bottles in the US going unrecycled in 2015.  They ended up as litter, in landfill or were incinerated.

The report concluded by recommending that people choose tap water instead of bottle water and that Congress increase funding in the US`s drinking and wastewater infrastructure.

“We need to kick our bottled water habit—but we also need to adequately fund our water infrastructure so that everyone has clean, safe and affordable tap water. Congress must ensure that our water infrastructure is adequately funded to protect current and future generations’ human right to water in the US,” concluded Ms Hunter.

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Felipe Wasserstein

Felipe is studying for an MA in Journalism and Media Communications from Griffth College Dublin. He is passionate about the environment, history, and cinema.