The Truth Behind America’s Bottled Water Industry

It is an understatement to assert that water is a simple and basic resource we all need to survive. In the United States, clean, healthy water is available almost everywhere. And yet, the bottled water industry has grown tremendously in the last thirty years and has been forecasted to grow even more next year.
Why then, do so many Americans choose the expense of bottled water over the perfectly safe tap water available in their own homes?
According to Charles Fishman from, bottled water has become an indispensable fixture in American lives and culture. Thirty years ago, there was essentially no bottled water industry to speak of since most Americans saw no need to get their water from anywhere but their own kitchen sink.
However, this year, according to Fishman, Americans spent $15 billion on bottled water provided by such brands as Poland Spring, Evian, Aquafina, Dasani and Fiji Water.
Fifteen billion dollars is more than Americans spend on iPods or movie tickets according to Fishman, so the market for bottled water is large and appears to only be getting larger. A generation of young Americans has been brought up to drink only bottled water when not too long ago their parents relied exclusively on tap water.
Admittedly, bottled water is convenient and Americans are avid consumers of products that increase the convenience of their daily lives. However, there is mounting criticism that bottled water is an unnecessary luxury that is quickly becoming an environmental issue.
According to an article on, U.S. bottled water sales are growing at around 10 percent per year.
In time, however, this growth translates to an increased number of bottles in landfills. Even the New York Times has joined in with the criticism by claiming that America has some of the best water supplies in the world and that more attention needs to be paid to the damage that so many plastic bottles cause on the environment.
The numbers speak for themselves. The United Nations in 2006 reported that $100 billion was spent on bottled water worldwide.
To put that in perspective, the UN has claimed that only $11.3 billion would be needed per year to give every person on the planet access to drinkable water by 2015.
In addition, the Earth Policy Institute has stated that 1.5 million barrels of oil are required from the United States each year in order to produce the plastic bottles that contain the water.
Sadly, many people in the world have no access to clean water of any kind but in the United States, Americans can take their pick from water flown in from countries including France, Fiji and Italy. It is also important to remember that bottled water requires big ships, trains and trucks to ship it, which causes more pollution.
The bottled water industry has managed so far to successfully market water to Americans. For instance, their advertising campaigns weave tales about the source of their water, helping their customers to feel good about its natural health benefits.
As a result, there is now an industry that deals with the packaging, design and presentation of bottled water, despite the overall similar taste between the brands. The success of the marketing is apparent when restaurants and hotels feel the need to provide a multitude of bottled waters for their guests or customers because people often feel attached to only one type of brand.
However, is any one brand really safer or healthier than tap water?
In fact, the answer is no; bottled water is not safer or healthier than tap water, at least in the United States. Public water sources in this country are closely monitored and results are made available to the public about water quality in their area.
Simply put, people have been convinced that bottled water is somehow healthier when in reality there are no results to suggest that such a claim is true.
What is more, the top two brands for bottled water in America are Aquafina and Dasani, which are owned by Pepsi and Coke respectively, and ironically, are just tap water.
While the water is refiltered, the companies are cleaning water that is essentially already clean. Thus, consumers are just paying for tap water packaged in wasteful plastic bottles that they could easily get in their own homes for free.
While the bottled water industry is not likely to slow down any time soon, consumers can do their best to ensure that they do not damage the environment with the numerous plastic bottles that are being purchased each year.
Remember to recycle and to look for brands that offer lighter and thinner plastic bottles so that less plastic is used in the bottling process.
According to Fishman, 38 billion water bottles are thrown away each year when they are completely recyclable. Bottled water is truly a luxury for American consumers who should keep in mind the environmental effects of plastic bottles and the monetary costs of paying for a product that is easily obtained for free from any sink.