Bronze-level articleBottled water

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Bottled water is essentially a dirtier, ridiculously expensive[note 1][1] version of municipal water resold in polyethylene terephthalateWikipedia's W.svg plastic bottles in many highly industrialized countries.[2]

Contents

[edit] Clever marketing

Bottled water is the marketing trick of the century
—John Jewell[3]

Somehow, Coca-cola,Wikipedia's W.svg Pepsi,Wikipedia's W.svg Nestlé,Wikipedia's W.svg and many other companies have convinced half of all Americans to buy water for 1 to 6 USD a gallon in bottle form,[4] instead of tap water, for a fraction of a USD penny per gallon,[5][6] all because of the influence of marketing and the publicized tap water contamination scares.

[edit] All about image

Nothing more natural than a polyethyleneWikipedia's W.svg thermoplastic polymerWikipedia's W.svg container on a beach.
The water ripples aren't from rain but from the tears of the labourers who helped manufacture the bottles.[citation NOT needed]
Evocative names and labels depicting pastoral scenes have convinced us that the liquid is the purest drink around. But labels can be misleading at best, deceptive at worst. In one notorious case, water coming from a well located near a hazardous waste site was sold to many bottlers. At least one of these companies labeled its product “spring water.” In another case, H2O sold as “pure glacier water” came from a public water system in Alaska.
Reader's Digest

Depictions of exotic mountains, crisp glaciers, and other beautiful imagery often depicted on bottles invoke a sense of purity and freshness. This eases a consumer's mind and convinces them they're making a better and healthier dietary decision.[3][7]

Here's a list of refreshing terminology for overpriced, unfiltered tap water:

  • "Designed to make a difference"[8]
  • "The secret is in the Alps"[9]
  • "Purified spring mineral water"[Every bottled water ever]
  • "A water that belongs on the wine list"[10]

[edit] Contents

For the most tasteless and odorless substance on the planet, companies market its products as having intrinsic high quality with a silky smooth texture and taste, despite a lack of any substantiative differences between normal water.[3][7][11] In Michael Shermer's article Bottled Twaddle, he summarizes a very solid illustration of just how taste-deaf our tongues are for water.[6]

The most telling taste test was conducted by the Showtime television series Penn & Teller: Bullshit! The hosts began with a blind comparison in which 75 percent of New Yorkers preferred city tap to bottled waters. They then went to the Left Coast and set up a hidden camera at a trendy southern California restaurant that featured a water sommelier who dispensed elegant water menus to the patrons. All bottles were filled out of the same hose in the back of the restaurant; nevertheless, Angelenos were willing to plunk down nearly $7 a bottle for L'eau Du Robinet (French for "faucet water"), Agua de Culo (Spanish for "ass water") and Amazone ("filtered through the Brazilian rain forest’s natural filtration system"), declaring them all to be far superior to tap water. There’s no accounting for taste.

Penn & Teller: Bullshit!'s experiment illustrates the power of suggestion;Wikipedia's W.svg the only aspect affecting the taste of the water is the assumed quality through deceptive presentation.

It pays to be warned of what you may consume, though. In 2016, at least 14 different brands of bottled water recalled their products due to E. Coli contamination, the presence of which suggests the additional presence of animal or human waste.[12] Yeah. Don't say we didn't warn you. In addition to this, a study from 2006 showed that the PET plastic bottles that you're drinking from leach chemicals into the water you're drinking.[13]

[edit] Marketed as an alternative to soda

While being vastly inferior to tap water in every way, bottled water was initially positioned as an alternative to unhealthy sodas. In a Hispanics targeted sweepstakes, NestléWikipedia's W.svg challenged families to replace sugary drinks with water with a possible cash prize:[14]

The campaign also uses regional radio to support in-store promotions, grassroots events and the La Promesa sweepstakes at Vivesanamentenestle.com. Consumers can register their pledge to remove one sugary drink from their family’s diet each day and replace it with water. In doing so, they are automatically registered in the contest with over $20,000 in prizes, including a grand prize trip for four to Miami, and dinner with Cristina Saralegui.Wikipedia's W.svg

Rodriguez said Hispanic consumers have played an important role in growing the brand’s popularity since it was launched in America nearly seven years ago. It is now the best-selling bottled water brand by volume, according to Beverage Marketing Corp. In the brand’s most recent marketing efforts, Nestle did not run general market advertising but focused instead on Hispanic ads using the first campaign featuring Cristina Saralegui. Since those ads broke in 2008, the brand’s awareness and purchase intent levels have quadrupled among Hispanics, Rodriguez said.

[edit] Convenience

Bottled water is marketed as a convenient alternative to tap water.[3][7] Obviously, it's much easier to spend money like a dope instead of planning ahead and filling up a container at home to carry with you. Unfortunately, the bottled water craze has resulted in less public drinking fountains, therefore, giving positive feedback to the cash cow industry.[15]

[edit] Regulation

[edit] United Sates

In the U.S., bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug AdministrationWikipedia's W.svg while tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.Wikipedia's W.svg[16] It doesn't sound like much, but once you consider how the regulation process goes, the EPA goes much further to ensure the water is safe for drinking.

The FDA has two means of testing bottled water, testing it themselves[17] and to have companies do it for them.[18] For the latter, it goes by an honor system, therefore, companies can lie about the regulations its not abiding by. According to studies, bottled water often fails to meet EPA standards of mercury, thallium, and thorium amounts.[19][20] So much for the laissez-faire approach. As for the FDA's plant inspections, fairly loose regulations are also present. Here's some quotes, straight from the administration's website:[17]

Because FDA's experience over the years has shown that bottled water has a good safety record,discussionitem=Document }}  #default=Link }}Do You Believe That? bottled water plants generally are assigned a relatively low priority for inspection. The Agency, however, inspects violative firms more frequently, depending on the number, significance and recurrence of violations. In addition, FDA's field offices follow up on consumer and trade complaints and other leads, as appropriate, on potentially violative bottled water products.

The current system in place is not preventative and is, instead, reactive to a violation of unsafe water released to the public ... after the fact. Amusingly, a handful of unsafe bottled water cases between the years 1994 and 2006 were not made public for whatever reason.[21] Here's one more awful questionable FDA practice:

FDA laboratories may test the water for microbiological, radiological or chemical contamination. Individual samples are not tested for all possible contaminants cited in the quality standard, but for selected contaminants, depending on the reason for the sampling. For example, suspected microbiological contamination may result in microbiological analysis. (However, as noted, bottlers are required to maintain testing records to show to government inspectors for all the contaminants in the quality standard.)

At this point, we can assume that the FDA just doesn't care? Keep in mind, the quotes from above are straight from the official dot gov website. Despite this, little concern from the American public has risen to change such terrible practices.

Meanwhile, tap water goes through rigorous testing, thanks to the Safe Drinking Water Act.[22][23] The results show tap water has consistently less contaminants than bottled water. Despite highly publicized contaminated tap water incidents, no scientific evidence shows tap water has more toxins than bottled water; in fact, it's the other way around. Despite this, the FDA claims to have higher standards for lead in bottled water by a difference of 10 ppb because "leaching of lead from distribution systems is not a factor for bottled water and, based on its survey data, FDA concluded that bottlers can readily produce bottled water products with lead levels below 5 ppb."[17] In contradiction, a lot of bottled water available in the United States is tap water, so "leaching of lead from distribution systems" should be a factor.

[edit] Europe

The UK treats bottled water as food:

Bottled waters are split into 3 categories: natural mineral water, spring water and bottled drinking water. Each has their own rules and requirements on exploitation, sale and how they are labelled.
UK government website More info is accessible from this page.

Similarly, German law (link in German) provides for a different set of regulations for tap water than for bottled water. Needless to say the regulations for tap water are much much stricter and in fact, they may even go to your house to measure at the tap whether any pollutants are above the legal limits. As for another advantage of tap water, in Germany, you won't be slapped by the intentionally onerous 25 cent deposit on throwaway bottles; this is even more expensive than the cheapest one and a half liter of water itself.[24]

[edit] The good things about bottled water

One use for bottled water is only in a pinch or simple convenience. Remember, just be careful when you store bottled water in your car or garage during a hot day.[25][26] Bottled water has the portability, but can achieve similar results by carrying a thermos filled with tap water. Bottled water is also useful if your tap water filter is broken, and there is no feasible way of fixing it. Otherwise, you'd save more money in the long term by fixing your water filter. If the water quality around your area is just plain bad,[27][better source needed] it's also wise to switch to bottled water, but remember, if you're not drinking brands like Evian,[citation needed] the bottled water you're drinking is likely from your county's tap water.

Remember to recycle when you're done! Plastic bottles can take 450 years to decompose if left in the environment,[28] especially if you leave the lid on so the inside of the bottle is inaccessible to the air! You don't want to make the Earth sad, do you?

[edit] See also

  • Holy water — it's occasionally bottled, often unsanitary, and completely unregulated

[edit] Notes

  1. Like, a 4000% markup ridiculously expensive

[edit] References

  1. 10 items with ludicrous markups#default=Link }} by Aaron Crowe (2012) ABC News.
  2. Soft drink is purified tap water#default=Link }} On Monday, 1 March, 2004. BBC
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Bottled water: the marketing trick of the century,#default=Link }} The Week
  4. The Truth About Tap: Lots of people think drinking bottled water is safer. Is it?#default=Link }} Natural Resources Defense Council
  5. The Story of Water,#default=Link }} City of Chesapeake
  6. 6.0 6.1 http://www.michaelshermer.com/2003/07/bottled-twaddle/#more-37
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 5 marketing lessons from the bottled water industry,#default=Link }} Quickbooks
  8. Dasani,#default=Link }} Textart
  9. Evian,#default=Link }} Textart
  10. Acqua Panna,#default=Link }} Textart
  11. Bottled water,#default=Link }} The Washington Post
  12. 14 Brands Of Bottled Water Voluntarily Recalled Due To Potential E. Coli Contamination, The Huffington Post
  13. http://plasticmenace.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/University-of-Heidelberg.pdf
  14. Nestle challenges Hispanics to drink more water,#default=Link }} Adweek
  15. Time for a drinking fountain,#default=Link }} SF Gate
  16. Bottled water,#default=Link }} U.S. Department of Health & Human Services
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Testimony/ucm170932.htm
  18. Bottled water,#default=Link }} U.S. Food and Drug Administration
  19. Bottled water,#default=Link }} U.S. National Center for Biotechnology Information
  20. Ikem, A., Odueyungbo, S., Egiebor, N.O., & Nyavor, K. (2001). "Chemical quality of bottled waters from three cities in eastern Alabama". Science of the Total Environment 285 (1-3): 165–175. doi:10.1016/S0048-9697(01)00915-9.#default=Link }}
  21. Bottled water recalls Information Supplement to Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water (published by Island Press, April 2010)
  22. Drinking water: basic information,#default=Link }} U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  23. Fewer regulations for bottled water than tap water,#default=Link }} The New York Times
  24. See the Wikipedia article on Container Deposit Legalisation.
  25. Breast cancer risk factors: plastic,#default=Link }} Breastcancer.org
  26. The safety of bottled water,#default=Link }} Realsimple
  27. Pittsburgh water,#default=Link }} TheGuardian
  28. Marine Debris,#default=Link }} New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services


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