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Bottled water

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Title: Bottled water  
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Bottled water

Bottled mineral water
Bottled water dispensed in a water cooler

Bottled water is drinking water (e.g., well water, distilled water, mineral water, or spring water) packaged in plastic or glass water bottles. Bottled water may be carbonated or not. Sizes range from small single serving bottles to large carboys for water coolers.


  • History 1
    • Water chemistry 1.1
    • PET plastic bottles 1.2
  • Types 2
  • Product forms 3
    • Purified water vending machines 3.1
    • Bottled water service 3.2
    • Storage 3.3
  • Regulation 4
    • Food and Drug Administration 4.1
    • Food Standards Australia New Zealand 4.2
  • Markets 5
    • Global sales 5.1
    • Australia 5.2
    • European Union 5.3
    • India 5.4
    • Lebanon 5.5
    • New Zealand 5.6
    • Pakistan 5.7
    • United States 5.8
  • Consumer information 6
    • Labeling 6.1
    • Consumer information 6.2
  • Concerns 7
    • Bottled water debates 7.1
    • Perceptions about bottled water 7.2
    • Pricing 7.3
    • Bans 7.4
    • Health concerns 7.5
    • Safety 7.6
    • Bottled water vs carbonated beverages 7.7
    • Bottled water versus tap water 7.8
  • Water as a human right 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • Further reading 11
  • External links 12


Although vessels to bottle and transport water were part of the earliest human civilizations,[1] bottling water began in the United Kingdom with the first water bottling at the [4] Early drinkers of bottled spa waters believed that the water at these mineral springs had therapeutic properties and that bathing in or drinking the water could help treat many common ailments.[3]

The popularity of bottled mineral waters quickly led to a market for imitation products. [4]

In the United States, the popularity of bottled water declined in the early 20th century, when the advent of [4] Today, bottled water is the second most popular commercial beverage in the United States, with about half the domestic consumption as soft drinks.[7]

Water chemistry

Many of the early developments in the field of chemistry can be attributed to the study of natural mineral waters and attempts to replicate them for commercial sale. Joseph Priestley, who would discover oxygen in 1775, made his first contributions to the field of chemistry by dissolving carbon dioxide in water, for which he was awarded the Copley Medal in 1773. He would go on to work with Jacob Schweppes, founder of Schweppes, in developing “aerated” waters for commercial sale.[8]

PET plastic bottles

In 1973, DuPont engineer Nathaniel Wyeth patented polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, the first plastic bottle to be able to withstand the pressure of carbonated liquids.[9] Today, PET plastic has replaced glass as the preferred material for single-serving bottled water containers due to its light weight and resistance to breaking.[10][11]


Distilled, purified water, in Hong Kong

Some of the more common types of bottled water are:[12][13]

  • Artesian water – this is water that originates from a confined aquifer that has been tapped and in which the water level stands at some height above the top of the aquifer.
  • Fluoridated – this type of water contains added fluoride. This category includes water classified as "For Infants" or "Nursery."
  • Groundwater – this type of water is from an underground source that is under a pressure equal to or greater than atmospheric pressure.
  • Mineral water – water from a mineral spring that contains various minerals, such as salts and sulfur compounds. It comes from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or spring, and originates from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. No minerals may be added to this water.
  • Purified water – this type of water has been produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes. Purified water may also be referred to as "demineralized water".
  • Sparkling water – Sparkling water contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had at emergence from the source. The carbon dioxide may be removed and replenished after treatment.
  • Spring water – this type of water comes from an underground formation from which water flows naturally to the Earth's surface.
  • Sterile water – this type of water meets sterilization requirements, for example, those specified under "sterility tests" in the United States Pharmacopoeia.
  • Well water – well water is taken from a hole tapping, etc. This hole may be bored, drilled, or otherwise constructed in the ground.[14]

Product forms

The Beverage Marketing Corporation defines the bottled water market segment as "retail PET, retail bulk, home and office delivery, vending, domestic sparkling and imports", but excluding "flavored and enhanced water."[15]

Purified water vending machines

A bottle-less drinking water vending machine in Pattaya, Thailand. Customers bring their containers

A number of cities and companies worldwide have vending machines that dispense purified water into customer's own containers. All dispensers filter the location's tap water. In North America, these machines are typically located outside of supermarkets.

Of all the water vending companies, Glacier Water is by far the largest. Since its inception in 1983, Glacier Water has experienced significant growth in machine placements and has created an extensive network of approximately 17,000 water vending machines (year 2010) located throughout the United States and Canada.

Bottled water service

It is not uncommon for business or individuals to subscribe to a bottled water service. These services deliver water either monthly or weekly, sometimes even daily. Traditionally, water in glass bottles (jugs) was provided to electric coolers in areas of businesses without plumbing. Plastic containers have replaced those glass jugs, however, dispensers at businesses now may stand alongside of existing water taps or fountains.


Bottled water are often stored as part of an emergency kit in case of natural disaster. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) says the "safest" and "most reliable" source of drinking water is store bought bottled water.[16] Commonly, disaster management experts recommend storing 1-US-gallon (3.8 L) of water per person, per day for at least three days.[17] This amount is intended to include water for drinking and cooking as well as water for hand washing, washing dishes, and personal hygiene. Factory-containers of water have an indefinite shelf life, as long as they remain unopened and undamaged.[18] The sell-by date is voluntarily and individually set by manufacturers to indicate the length of time that they believe the water will taste and smell fresh, rather than to indicate any issue of contamination or food safety.


Regulators may impose standards for identifying the type of bottled water.

Food and Drug Administration

Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the U.S. [21]

The FDA has established "Standards of Identity" for bottled water products sold in the U.S. For a product to be considered “bottled water”, it cannot contain sweeteners or chemical additives (other than flavors, extracts or essences) and must be calorie-free and sugar-free. If flavors, extracts and essences—derived from spice or fruit—are added to the water, these additions must comprise less than 1% by weight of the final product. The FDA Code of Federal Regulations establishes limitations for the amount of fluoride that can added to water. Mineral water contains at least 250 parts per million total dissolved solids (TDS). "Purified water" is defined in the United States Pharmacopoeia.

Food Standards Australia New Zealand

Food Standards Australia New Zealand's Food Standards Code limits fluoride in bottled water to between 0.6 and 1.0 milligrams per litre, and requires any addition to be specified on the product label.[22]


Global sales

Global bottled water sales have increased dramatically over the past several decades, reaching a valuation of around $60 billion and a volume of more than 115,000,000 cubic metres (3.0×1010 US gal) in 2006.[23] U.S. sales reached around 30 billion bottles of water in 2008, a slight drop from 2007 levels [24]

The rate of consumption more than quadrupled between 1990 and 2005.[25] Spring water and purified tap water are currently the leading global sellers. By one estimate, approximately 50 billion bottles of water are consumed per year in the U.S. and around 200 billion bottles globally.[26]


The Australasian Bottled Water Institute is a regional member of the International Council of Bottled Water Associations. The bottled water industry in Australia is worth approximately $400 million per year,[27]

An upmarket restaurant in Sydney has stopped selling bottled water and started using a machine costing A$5000 to filter, chill and carbonate tap water to get the same quality water.[28]

European Union

Directive 2009/54/EC[29] deals with the marketing and exploitation of natural mineral waters in the European Union. The two main types of bottled water recognized are mineral water and spring water.

Broadly speaking, "mineral water" is groundwater that has emerged from the ground and flowed over rock. Treatment of mineral water is restricted to removal of unstable elements such as iron and sulfur compounds. Treatment for such minerals may extend only to filtration or decanting with oxygenation. Free carbon dioxide may be removed only by physical methods, and the regulations for introduction (or reintroduction) of CO2 are strictly defined. Disinfection of natural mineral water is completely prohibited, including the addition of any element that is likely to change bacterial colony counts. If natural mineral water is effervescent, it must be labelled accordingly, depending on the origin of the carbon dioxide: naturally carbonated natural mineral water (no introduction of CO2); natural mineral water fortified with gas from the spring (reintroduction of CO2); carbonated natural mineral water (CO2 added following strict guidelines).

Directive 2001/83/EC[30] deals with bottled water that is considered a "medicinal product" and is thus excluded from the scope of the other regulation.


The bottled water industry in India witnessed a boom in the late 1990s soon after Bisleri launched its packaged drinking water in the country. This significant growth was fuelled by a surge in advertising by the industry players that "bottled water was pure and healthy".[31]

The total market was valued at 60 billion (US$910 million) in 2013, of which the top five players( Bisleri, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Dhariwal and Parle) accounted for 67% of the market share. This market is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22%, to reach 160 billion (US$2.4 billion) in 2018.[31]


Water is the chief natural resource of Lebanon where the porous fractured limestone of the mountains, both the Mount Lebanon and the Anti-Lebanon ranges, create an excellent aquifer that are replenished over spring and early summer by the melting snow.[32] Lebanon has an advantageous position in the region as far as the amount of rainfall the country receives and water resources available where springs are abundant, due to the exceedingly “fractured geologic rocks,” and where streams amount to a length of 730 km.[33] Lebanon has one of the fastest growth rate of per capita consumption of bottled water.[34]

Lebanon has seven major brands of bottled mineral water for local consumption and for exportation to the water-starved countries on the Arabian Peninsula and in the Persian Gulf:[35] Almaha, Arz Water, Rim Natural Mineral Water, Sabil, Sannine, Sohat and Tannourine.

New Zealand

Bottled water in New Zealand is regulated by Food Standards Australia New Zealand and must comply with the Food Act 1981. From July 2009 fluoride was allowed to be present in bottled water as an additive or as a natural occurring mineral.


Due to contaminated water being widespread, in the mid-1980s urban families started installing filtration units at home. This later developed into companies providing mineral water delivery services at home. Use of these 1-US-gallon (3.8 L) bottles that could be attached to a dispenser is still widespread.

Bottled water was made famous by one of the largest marketing campaigns in Pakistan history undertaken by Nestle. Eventually, other bottlers including dozens of local ones, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nature, Vey, Nova Pure Water Larkana, Mina Water, Great Water Islamabad, Dew Drop,[36] and other imported brands such as Evian began marketing in the country.

United States

The U.S. is the largest consumer market for bottled water in the world, followed by Mexico, China, and Brazil.[37] In 2008, U.S. bottled water sales topped 8.6 billion US gallons (33,000,000 m3) for 28.9% of the U.S. liquid beverage market, exceeding sales of all other beverages except carbonated soft drinks, they are followed by fruit juices, and sports drinks.[15] Americans drink 21 US gallons (79 L) of bottled water per capita per year.[38]

In the United States, bottled water and tap water are regulated by different federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the quality of tap water. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is headquartered in Alexandria, VA.

From 1970 (16 brands) over 1998 (50 brands) to 2012 (195 brands), the number of mineral water brands in the U.S. has grown exponentially.[39]

Consumer information


In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates all packaged foods and beverage products, including bottled water, and mandates labeling requirements. FDA labeling requirements include a statement of the type of water in the container, compliance with the applicable definitions in the FDA Standards of Identity, ingredient labeling, name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer or distributor, net weight, and, if required, nutrition labeling. [40]

Consumer information

Public water systems are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide households in their service territories with a Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) that provides information on the quality of their water during the previous year.[41] Such disclosures are not required by the FDA of any packaged food or beverage product, including bottled water. All packaged foods and beverages, must be manufactured according to FDA regulations and must meet all applicable quality and safety standards.[40]

A bottled water refill station in a Canadian grocery store

In Canada, bottled water must meet the standards in the Food and Drugs Act & Regulations (FDAR) as it is considered a food. The FDAR works in partnership with Health Canada and Canadian in developing the policies regarding bottled water. The CFIA focuses more on regulations pertaining to packaging, labeling, advertising, and other safety practices, whereas the FDAR focuses more on the water itself. For example, the bottled water must meet the Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) Regulations in Division 12, Part B of the Act must be met before it is approved for sale. Some of the regulations include: labeling terms, safety standards (i.e.: what is/isn't acceptable), and microbiological standards (i.e.: chlorine).[42] In addition to this, the type of filtration method the water has gone through must be shown on the label, as stated in Section B.12.009 [43] Additional information regarding regulations can be found on the CFIA website.[44] The regulations specific to bottled water is in Division 12 and 15, which specify what can be added, such as the amount of arsenic and lead.[45] Regulations are always being updated to conform with new scientific data, laws, new products, and new improvements.[45] In terms of the types of water sold, spring and mineral water must meet the following criteria:

  • originate from an underground source which is not part of a community water supply; and[45]
  • be naturally fit to drink (potable) at the source; and[45]
  • before bottling, not be treated in any way that changes the original chemical composition of the water. (The allowable treatments are discussed in section 1.2.) [45]

In Canada, there are two categories of bottled water: 1) spring/mineral water, or 2) water other than mineral water or spring water.


Bottled water debates

Bottled water is bought for many different reasons including taste, convenience, poor tap water quality and safety concerns, health concerns and as a substitute for sugary drinks.[46] The environmental impact, container safety, water origin, emergency supplies and role of the bottled water industry continue to be areas of concern for many people.

Most bottled water containers are made from recyclable PET plastic, and some of these bottles end up in the waste stream in landfills. The financial and environmental costs of transportation bottled water has been another concern because of the energy used and the consequent release of carbon dioxide and the potential impact on climate change.[47]

In some cases it can be shown that bottled water is actually tap water.[48] However it is also argued that the quality specifications for some bottled waters in some jurisdictions are more stringent than the standards for tap-water. In the USA, bottled water that comes from municipal suppliers must be clearly labeled as such unless it has been sufficiently processed to be labeled as “distilled” or “purified”.[49]

It has been argued that bottled water companies should only exist for emergency situations when public water supplies are unsafe, unavailable or overwhelmed.[50] The contrary view is that regulations are placed on the availability of bottled water, bottled water companies will not have the sufficient supplies when a water system is compromised and that the only reason bottled water is readily available during emergencies is because the industry is maintained by routine purchases.[51]

One American study showed that "even in areas with safe tap water, African American, Polish American and Latino parents were three times more likely to give their children mostly bottled water compared to non-Latino white children, because of their belief that bottled water is safer, cleaner, better tasting, or more convenient". The economic implications of this also showed serious inequities: as a percentage of household income, whites reported median spending of 0.4% of their income on bottled water; African Americans and Latinos reported median spending to be more than twice as high.”[52] The study volunteers that: "For poor families, the use of bottled water may lead to less availability of resources for other health the rather striking levels of expenditure on water relative to household income."[52] On a global scale, markets for bottled water in poorer developing countries are growing rapidly due to increased fears of “contaminated tap water, inadequate municipal water systems, and increased marketing on the part of bottled water companies.”[52] Sales of bottled water in Mexico, China, and parts of India, are rising steeply.[52]

Perceptions about bottled water

Bottled water is perceived by many as being a safer alternative to other sources of water such as tap water. Bottled water usage has increased even in countries where clean tap water is present.[53] This may be attributed to consumers disliking the taste of tap water or its

  • UK Bottled Water Association
  • British Bottled Water Producers

External links

  • United States. Congress. House. Committee on Energy and Commerce. Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection. Regulation of Bottled Water: Hearing before the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade, and Consumer Protection of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, One Hundred Eleventh Congress, First Session, July 8, 2009.

Further reading

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  4. ^ a b c d e
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  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ a b "Smaller categories still saw growth as the U.S. liquid refreshment beverage market shrunk by 2.0% in 2008, Beverage Marketing Corporation reports", press release Beverage Marketing Corporation, 3/30/2009.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b [1]
  22. ^
  23. ^ King, Mike. Bottled Water Global Industry Guide,, July 7, 2008. Archived August 29, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ Data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation, 2008, and (by Peter H. Gleick), Island Press, DC, published 2010Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water.
  25. ^ Li, Ling. Bottled Water Consumption Jumps, Worldwatch Institute. November 8, 2007.
  26. ^ "A Fountain On Every Corner", The New York Times. Find A Fountain, May 23, 2008.
  27. ^ a b c
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^
  31. ^ a b
  32. ^
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^
  37. ^ "Changing Consumer Tastes Creates Explosive Growth For Domestic And International Bottled Water Brands - Revenue In 2007 Expected To Reach $5.974 Billion With Growth Set To Climb Higher Through 2012", press release, IBISWorld, May 21, 2008.
  38. ^
  39. ^ Aichner, T. and Coletti, P. 2013. Customers' online shopping preferences in mass customization. Journal of Direct, Data and Digital Marketing Practice, 15(1): 20-35.
  40. ^ a b
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  44. ^
  45. ^ a b c d e
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^
  50. ^
  51. ^
  52. ^ a b c d Gleick, Peter H. "Another Cost of Bottled Water: Environmental Injustice and Inequity." The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 09 June 2011. Web. 20 Mar. 2014.
  53. ^ Ferrier, Catherine. "Bottled water: understanding a social phenomenon." AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 30.2 (2001): 118-119.
  54. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Doria, M. D. "Bottled water versus tap water: understanding consumers-preferences." J Water Health 271 (2006): 276.
  55. ^ "Bottled, filtered, and tap water use in Latino and non-Latino children." Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine 161.5 (2007): 457-461.
  56. ^ a b c d Hobson, Wendy L., et al. "Bottled, filtered, and tap water use in Latino and non-Latino children." Archives of pediatrics & adolescent medicine 161.5 (2007): 457-461.
  57. ^ a b c d "Mail & Guardian Account Login." The M&G Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 April 2014.
  58. ^
  59. ^
  60. ^
  61. ^
  62. ^
  63. ^
  64. ^ Smith, Michael. Bottled Water Cited as Contributing to Cavity Comeback, MedPage Today, September 19, 2005.
  65. ^
  66. ^
  67. ^
  68. ^
  69. ^
  70. ^
  71. ^
  72. ^ Hamermesh, Daniel. Ban Water Bottles to Reduce Pollution? Come On!, Freakonomics Blog, The New York Times, January 19, 2009.
  73. ^ Cutting down on liquid calories: A visual guide, Consumer Reports, August 2006.
  74. ^ Gitlitz, Jennifer and Pat Franklin. "Water, Water Everywhere: The growth of non-carbonated beverages in the United States", Container Recycling Institute, February 2007.
  75. ^ Martin, Andrew. Makers of Sodas Try a New Pitch: They're Healthy, The New York Times, March 7, 2007.
  76. ^ a b
  77. ^
  78. ^ World Health Organization, "How to measure chlorine residual in water" WHO - Technical Notes for Emergencies, Technical Note No. 11, 4 Draft revised: 7.1.05 (pdf)
  79. ^ Bottled Water. Penn Jillette, Teller. Bullshit!. Showtime. 2003-03-07. No. 7, season 1.
  80. ^ Paulson, Tom. Thirst for bottled water may hurt environment, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 19, 2007.
  81. ^
  82. ^
  83. ^
  84. ^
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  93. ^
  94. ^


See also

The recent documentary Tapped argues against the bottled water industry, asserting that tap water is healthier, more environmentally sustainable, and more ecologically sound than bottled water. The film focuses on the bottled water industry in the United States. The film has received largely positive reviews, and has spawned college campus groups such as Beyond the Bottle. Yet, as many people remain generally unaware of the negative health and environmental impacts associated with bottled water, recent research in environmental psychology has started to investigate how to reduce the public's consumption of bottled water.[94]

Another frequent criticism of bottled water is the control of limited water sources by private companies, often with the result of closing access to those resources by local peoples, and the near global monopoly of those resources by a small number of corporations, most particularly Nestlé S.A., the World's largest producer of bottled water.[81][82][83][84][85][86][87][88][89][90][91][92] In the 2012 Swiss documentary Bottled Life[93] about Nestlé's bottled water brands like Poland Spring and Nestlé Pure Life, it is shown that water concessions are exploited by the commercialization to a degree where local residents are cut off from their previously free water resources - in high income countries as well as in developing countries. This practice is in marked contrast to all assumptions about a human right to water.

The water "privatization" (a term commonly also associated with public-private partnerships in tap water supply) is ethical. They regard the industrial purchase and repackaging at a much higher resale price of a basic resource as an unethical trend.[80]

Water as a human right

In a 2003 episode of the Showtime series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! restaurant diners appeared unable to discern between bottled water and water from a garden hose behind the restaurant.[79]

The Corporate Accountability International, typically argue that bottled water is no better than tap water, and emphasize the detrimental environmental side-effects of disposable plastic bottles.

[78] In much of the developed world

Bottled water may have reduced amounts of copper, lead, and other metal contaminants since it does not run through the plumbing pipes where tap water is exposed to metal corrosion, however, this varies by the household and plumbing system.[76]

Bottled water versus tap water

According to the Container Recycling Institute, sales of flavored, non-carbonated drinks are expected to surpass soda sales by 2010.[74] In response, Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola have introduced new carbonated drinks that are fortified with vitamins and minerals, Diet Coke Plus and Tava, marketed as "sparkling beverages."[75]

Bottled noncarbonated drinking water competes in the marketplace with carbonated beverages (including carbonated water) sold in individual plastic bottles.[72] Consumption of water often is considered a healthier substitute for sodas.[73]

Bottled water vs carbonated beverages

Bottled water has an impressive safety record – There have been no major outbreaks of illness or serious safety concerns associated with bottled water in the past decade, an FDA official stated in testimony before a July 9, 2009 Congressional hearing.[70] Conversely, as noted in the Drinking Water Research Foundation's (DWRF) 2013 report, "Microbial Health Risks of Regulated Drinking Waters in the United States," EPA researchers reported an estimated 16.4 million cases of acute gastrointestinal illness per year are caused by tap water. Subsequent research has estimated that number of illnesses to be closer to 19.5 million case s per year.[21] In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that waterborne diseases, such as Cryptosporidiosis and Giardiasis, cost the U.S. healthcare system as much as $539 million a year in hospital expenses.[71]


Studies show that the plastics used for bottles contain chemicals having estrogenic activity, even when they claim otherwise.[68] Although some of the bottled water contained in glass were found polluted with chemicals as well, the researchers believe some of the contamination of water in the plastic containers may have come from the plastic containers.[69] Leaching of chemicals into the water is related to the plastic bottles being exposed to either low or high temperatures.

According to a 1999 NRDC study, in which roughly 22 percent of brands were tested, at least one sample of bottled drinking water contained chemical contaminants at levels above strict state health limits. Some of the contaminants found in the study could pose health risks if consumed over a long period of time.[65] The NRDC report conceded that "most waters contained no detectable bacteria, however, and the level of synthetic organic chemicals and inorganic chemicals of concern for which [they] were tested were either below detection limits or well below all applicable standards."[66] Meanwhile, a report by the Drinking Water Research Foundation found that of all samples tested by NRDC, "federal FDA or EPA limits were allegedly exceeded only four times, twice for total coliforms and twice for fluorides."[67]

Since the 1950s, tap water is often treated with fluoride to prevent tooth decay. Since bottled water processed with distillation or reverse osmosis lacks fluoride ions which are present in some natural ground water, it is possible that the drinking of distilled water may increase the risk of tooth decay due to a lack of this element now added to many water supplies.[64] Social and scientific issues surrounding the fluoridation of water supplies are discussed in more detail in the articles on water fluoridation and the water fluoridation controversy.

In some areas, tap water may contain added fluoride, which helps prevent tooth decay and cavities.[62] Some bottled water manufacturers in the United States add fluoride to their product, or provide a fluoridated bottled water product. The Food and Drug Administration of the United States does not require bottled water manufacturers to list the fluoride content on the label. However, unlike tap water where the amount of fluoride added by municipalities to drinking water is not federally regulated, the FDA has set specific limits for how much fluoride may be found in bottled water.[63] Water fluoridation remains controversial in countries where forced fluoridation is practiced (the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and a handful of other countries).

In the United States, bottled water and tap water are regulated by different federal agencies: the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates the quality of tap water. Under the Safe Drinking Water Act the EPA has set maximum contaminant levels for approximately 90 contaminants that might be found in drinking water and 15 secondary maximum contaminant levels.[61]

Health concerns

In 2012, the town of Concord, Massachusetts became the first in the United States to ban the sale of bottled water. Specifically, sales of non-sparkling, unflavored drinking water in single-serving polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of 1 liter (34 ounces) or less are prohibited. The ban went into effect on 1 January 2013.

After a Sydney-based beverage company wanted to open a water extraction plant in the New South Wales town Bundanoon, residents outlawed the sale of bottled water. The town continues to fight the company's proposal in court.[57] "In the same week the New South Wales state premier also banned all state departments and agencies from buying bottled water because of its huge environmental footprint, joining more than 70 cities in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom that have banned bottled water in their departments."

In 2009, the small New South Wales town of Bundanoon voted to become the first town in the world to ban the selling or dispensing of bottled water.[27][59] Bundanoon caught the attention of many other cities around the world.[27][60]

In response to environmental and financial concerns, a few localities and U.S. colleges are banning bottled water sales.


The Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) states that in 2013, the average wholesale price per gallon of domestic non-sparkling bottled water was $1.21. BMC’s research also shows that consumers actually tend to buy bottled water in bulk from supermarkets (25.3%) or large discount retailers (57.9%) because it costs significantly less. Convenience stores are likely to have higher prices (4.5%), as do drug stores (2.8%). The remaining 9.5% is accounted for through vending machines, cafeterias and other food service outlets, and other types of sales.[58]

"The consumption of bottled and filtered water has dramatically increased in the United States during the past decade, with bottled water sales tripling to about $4 billion a year. More than 50% of the US population drinks bottled water and 'people spend from 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon for bottled water than they typically do for tap water.' An annual supply of bottled water for a person who consumes 8 glasses a day would cost approximately $200; the same amount of tap water would cost approximately $0.33. In general, women are more likely to drink bottled water than men, and Hispanic women are the group most likely to drink bottled water."[56]

Bottled water is more expensive than municipally-supplied tap water. Tap water sources and delivery systems (taps and faucets) are fixed in place while bottled water is available at many differing price points and in a variety of size formats.

A street vendor selling bottled water in Istanbul, Turkey


In 2001 a WWF study, "Bottled water: understanding a social phenomenon", warned that in many countries, bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water and it sold for up to 1,000 times the price. It said the booming market would put severe pressure on recycling plastics and could lead to landfill sites drowning in mountains of plastic bottles.[57] Also, the study discovered that the production of bottled water uses more water than the consumer actually buys in the bottle itself.[57]

Globally, there is an intensifying environmental backlash against bottled water usage. As global consumption of bottled water soars, environmental groups such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Greenpeace have warned of the huge environmental footprint of the plastic in which the water is packaged.[57]

Many low-income families avoid drinking tap water because they fear it may cause sickness.[55] Bottled, filtered, and tap water are all for the most part safe in the United States.[56] The Environmental Protection Agency regulations for tap water are "actually stricter than the Food and Drug Administration regulations for bottled water."[56] A study of drinking water in Cincinnati, Ohio, discovered that bacterial counts in bottled water were often higher than those in tap water and fluoride concentration was inconsistent.[56]

Some surveys "found that bottled water, far from being an alternative to tap water, seems to be mostly consumed as a substitute for alcoholic and traditional soft drinks (e.g. AWWA-RF 1993; FWR 1996) – the exception being when water contamination presents serious health risks and the trust in the tap water company is highly eroded (e.g. Lonnon 2004)."[54] Another explanation for the rise in popularity of bottled water is alternative explanation is that "the consumption of 'pure' and 'natural' bottled water in degraded environments may represent a symbolic purging behavior."[54]

"Bottled water sales are higher amongst African – American, Asians and Hispanic groups, which typically have lower incomes than whites."[54] Some hypothesize that these differences are due to the geographic distribution of ethnic groups. It was theorized that ethnic differences in bottled water usage "mirror the variability of water system quality between urban, suburban and rural areas (Abrahams et al. 2000) and it was also pointed out that they might reflect the memory of past problems caused by deficient tap-water systems in deprived areas (Olson 1999)."[54] In France, a similar geographic study in the early 1970s found that bottled water consumption was found to be much higher in urban areas (Ferrier 2001). This finding was "also explained in terms of the poor quality of urban tap water and of the bad condition of the old lead pipes in French cities. Nonetheless, while poor tap water quality may motivate the public to search for alternative sources, it alone does not necessarily lead to higher consumption of bottled water."[54]

Consumers tend to choose bottled water due to health related reasons.[54] In communities that experience problems with their tap water, bottled water consumption is significantly higher. The International Bottled Water Association guidelines state that bottled water companies cannot compare their product to tap water in marketing operations. Consumers are also affected by memories associated with particular brands.[54] For example, Coca-Cola took their Dasani product off of the UK market after finding levels of bromate that were higher than legal standards because consumers in the UK associated this flaw with the Dasani product.[54]

spent $128 million, sodas spent $564 million, and beer spent $1 billion. sports drinks (BMC), in 2013, the bottled water industry spent $60.6 million on advertising. That same year, Beverage Marketing Corporation However, while bottled water has grown in both consumption and sales, the industry’s advertising expenses are considerably less than other beverages. According to the [54].status symbol's transformation of a bottle of water into a Perrier Another contributing factor to this shift could be the marketing success of bottled water. The success of bottled water marketing can be seen by [54]

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