The Rise and Fall of Bottled Water

The evolution of the bottled water industry has finally crested and demise has begun.  I admit, I fell for bottled water’s marketing strategy in believing tap water was not safe.  The H2O held in those clear plastic bottles was safer, I believed, until I learned that the plastic containers leached BPA.  After successfully convincing us all that bottled water was healthier, the industry is finally facing a decline in sales thanks to environmental movements educating consumers that tap water is safe and plastic water bottles are creating a waste nightmare.  

The rise and fall of bottled water
The rise and fall of bottled water / Photo by mandiberg

Just how were so many Americans convinced bottled water was better for their health?  Alternet, quoting Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought it by Elizabeth Royte, explains:

The outrageous success of bottled water, in a country where more than 89 percent of tap water meets or exceeds federal health and safety regulations, regularly wins in blind taste tests against name-brand waters, and costs 240 to 10,000 times less than bottled water, is an unparalleled social phenomenon, one of the greatest marketing coups of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. But why did the marketing work?  At least part of the answer, I’m beginning to understand, is that bottled water plays into our ever-growing laziness and impatience.

Bottled water is convenient for people on the go, but that is not why I was convinced many years ago it was superior to tap.  I was concerned about the quality and safety of tap water, but instead of actually investigating and advocating for safe drinking water, I turned to bottled water.

I still sometimes fall into the marketing trap when traveling and purchase a disposable bottle of water, but more likely than not, I carry my own reusable stainless steel bottle and fill it with filtered water wherever I find it.  Fortunately, I am not alone, as bottled water sales have dropped over the last year.  Food and Water Watch report:

Since we started in 2005, we’ve been urging consumers to take back the tap, and just this week we’ve seen some more encouraging signs that the bottled water industry is on the decline. Dannon, the owner of the Evian bottled water brand, just reported a 10 percent decline in its 2009 sales, and Nestle Waters of North America recently reported its bottled water sales fell by 5.5 percent last year. Consumers are realizing that tap water is an environmentally responsible choice that costs much less.

The negative effects of bottled water are numerous.  From oil consumption used in the production of plastic water bottles to giant corporations like Nestle depleting local aquifers, tap water is the safest and most environmentally responsible choice.  If you still fall into the marketing trap of bottled water, remember next time you reach for a plastic water bottle it is not better quality water and it is not better for your health (or the planet).

Written by Jennifer Lance


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