Why Do People Drink Bottled Water and How Much?

Bottled WaterWhy do people drink bottled water and how much?

I personally don’t get it from an economic and environmental standpoint but people do drink bottled water so I decided to do some research. Below is an unscientific summary of some of my findings.

Why Do People Drink Bottled Water?

  • Convenience
  • Taste
  • Concern about Tap Water Safety / Health
  • Alternative to Other Bottled Drinks

Convenience

Really. It just isn’t that difficult to fill up a glass or reusable water bottle from a faucet (with or with-out filter), water-filter pitcher, refrigerator door, etc.

Taste

I guess I’m just not that picky about water taste as I think tap water tastes fine. I’ll also drink coffee out of a vending machine if pressed so maybe that explains it. There are many products available to filter tap water from water-filter pitchers to reverse osmosis systems so the “I don’t like the taste of tap water” excuse just doesn’t fly.

Concern about Tap Water Safety / Health

Water Faucet with Glass of WaterThe United States enjoys one of the best supplies of drinking water in the world. However, some people are concerned about the safety of water from their water faucet. Other people with certain health conditions may need to be especially careful about drinking water qualities. People experiencing the aftermath of a natural or man-made disaster need access to safe drinking water. It is important to address individual concerns and special requirements with information and solutions that meet their needs. Bottled water isn’t the only solution. I don’t pretend to be an expert in this area but have listed some resources below that might help get people pointed in the right direction.

Tap and Bottled Water Standards

The U.S. EPA sets standards for tap water provided by public water supplies; the U.S. FDA sets standards for bottled water based on EPA standards. An interesting caveat, U.S. FDA  bottled water standards only apply to water sold via interstate commerce or imported. For water bottled and sold in the same state, contact your state health department for information on bottled water standards.

Alternative to Other Bottled Drinks

The International Bottled Water Association states on their website, “although bottled water has often been likened to tap water, bottled water actually achieved its market stature by enticing consumers away from other packaged beverages perceived as less wholesome than bottled water”.

I found this statement amusing. If one wants to drink something more “wholesome” like water, one doesn’t need a bottle of water. A glass or reusable bottle of water will do. You’ve got to love the American marketing machine.

How Much Bottled Water Do People Drink?

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation, in 2011, the top 10 bottled water consuming countries consumed 61,370,000,000 gallons (yes billions) of bottled water.

The United States led the pack at 29.2 gallons per capita for a total of 9,107,000,000 gallons with a wholesale cost approaching $11,100,000,000.

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Resources

  • U.S. EPA publication Water On Tap What You Need to Know provides information on water safety, standards, how to get assistance with water concerns, how to protect our water sources, references, links and a glossary of water-related terms.
  • U.S. EPA publication Water Health Series Bottled Water Basics explains types of bottled water, safety, certification, and useful links.
  • International Bottled Water Association publication Bottled Water Reporter Apr / May 2012 contains information about the bottled water industry, facts and figures (includes those listed above), recycling, and a list of industry companies.

Introduction to Single-Serving Bottled Water

CanteenWe never had bottled water in the house when I was a kid. Public drinking fountains were found everywhere. When we went hiking I filled up a canteen with water from the kitchen faucet (I still have my green army surplus model). I was familiar with bottled water a la the office water cooler but I have to admit I didn’t really “get it,” why pay extra for water in a bottle when one was already paying for water available from the tap.

My introduction to single-serving bottled water occurred back in the 1990’s. I frequently traveled to visit clients all over Southern California which is a large geographical area to cover so I spent a lot of time in my car.

It all Started in Palm Springs

One day I had driven to Palm Springs, during the summer, to work on a project. Back in those days, we dressed formally. For women that meant business suit or dress (maybe a pantsuit), pantyhose, and heels. After the meeting, I got back in my car which was probably about 125 degrees inside and made the mistake of touching the steering wheel before the air conditioning had a chance to cool it off. I noticed my favorite lipstick had melted into a red pool on the console. It was really hot.

I was on my way out of town when my pager when off. Yes, you read that correctly, we all wore pagers so if there was a crisis on a project or a client had an urgent request, the office could contact us. This was way before smart phones so that meant either calling from a client’s office or finding a pay phone.

The 3rd pay phone actually worked, so I stood there in the 100+ degree heat, wearing a white linen suit, pantyhose, and high heels. I don’t remember what the issue was but by the time the call was done I was dripping in sweat. I got back in my car and started down the highway. Those of you familiar with the road between Los Angeles and Palm Springs will know there is virtually nothing until you get to Fontana (at least back then there wasn’t). I was in the middle of nowhere and suddenly I was thirsty. By the time I found a place to stop to get something to drink, I was tired, hot, cranky, and parched.

Car Phone

Car PhoneI did two things soon after. One, I bought a car phone. At that time mobile phones were large rectangular things that were carried around in a small suitcase and they were very expensive. The car phone I bought cost about $800. It was mounted on the console in between the front seats, there was a black box mounted in the trunk and an antenna on the back window. The thing about a car phone is that you had to sit in the car to use it so I spent quite a bit of time in my car sitting in parking lots and talking on the phone. It was useful as now I could communicate with clients and the office and take care of client’s needs quickly. Also, I never had to look for a pay phone again.

Bottled Water

Bottled WaterThe second thing I did was go out and buy a six-pack of bottled water and put it in the fridge. I made a point of never leaving the house or office without a bottle of water. After a few weeks, I started washing the bottles and filling them from the water faucet in my kitchen. I just couldn’t see spending money on bottled water. Periodically I’d buy another six-pack, put it in the fridge, and pull out a new bottle of water when I lost the cap or the whole bottle. That was then…

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