All Wet: The Truth About Bottled Water

A new study asseses that bottled water is not a sustainable solution compared to tap water.

| September/October 2001

Based on a University of Geneva, Switzerland, study titled “Bottled Water: Understanding a Social Phenomenon,” the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) is urging consumers to stop buying bottled water and calling for clean-up and protection of rivers and streams so that everyone can feel confident about drinking from the tap.

Although 54 percent of Americans regularly drink bottled water, and it can sell for up to 1,000 times the price of municipal water, bottled water may be no safer or healthier than tap water in many countries, the study found. In areas where tap water may be contaminated, boiling or filtering water renders it safe at a much lower cost, the study asserts.

According to the study, each year the bottled water industry uses 1.5 million tons of plastic that requires the use of toxic chemicals to manufacture. Twenty-five percent of the 89 billion liters of water bottled each year are consumed outside their country of origin.

“Bottled water should not be considered a ­sustainable alternative to tap water, as it is not exempt from periodical contamination,” concludes the study, which was commissioned by the WWF. “In addition, tap water is more energy efficient as it is provided through underground pipes, compared to fuel and energy needed for filling bottles and transporting them around the world.”

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), which represents more than 80 percent of the $22 billion world bottled-water market, refutes the WWF’s conclusions. “Regardless of whether water comes from the tap or from a ­bottle, the world should demand it be clean, safe, and available for future generations,” the IBWA states. “The fact is, people are increasingly choosing bottled water because of its consistent high quality, safety, taste, and convenience.”



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