Water

Bottled Water Industry on the Defensive with Bogus Attack Campaign

The bottled water industry is feeling the pressure from discerning consumers who aren't buying their hype any more.
A group promoting the website EnjoyBottleWater.org is trying to handle the pressure put by consumer groups on bottled water companies by resorting to fear tactics. Their ploys are predictable and as easy to see through as their product.

A video by the group claims that politicians are trying to take away people's rights to bottled water and shows headlines from newspapers where U.S. mayors have ended bottled water contracts for city buildings. The video juxtaposes these shots with folks in developing countries drinking dirty water, claiming that these actions are taking away water "from those in need."

Their campaign is nothing short of a sham. The city officials in San Francisco where bottled water contracts were ended are hardly people in need of clean water. San Francisco's tap, which comes from Yosemite, is some of the best in the country. And their action saves taxpayers thousands of dollars each year by switching from bottled to tap.

One of the reasons this bottled water front group is trying to defend themselves is because last week Environmental Working Group issued a damning report on bottled water companies.

Here's what they had to say:
The bottled water industry promotes an image of purity, but comprehensive testing by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reveals a surprising array of chemical contaminants in every bottled water brand analyzed, including toxic byproducts of chlorination in Walmart's Sam's Choice and Giant Supermarket's Acadia brands, at levels no different than routinely found in tap water. Several Sam's Choice samples purchased in California exceeded legal limits for bottled water contaminants in that state. Cancer-causing contaminants in bottled water purchased in 5 states (North Carolina, California, Virginia, Delaware and Maryland) and the District of Columbia substantially exceeded the voluntary standards established by the bottled water industry.
While the bottled water companies have attempted to dismiss this report, there is one very easy way for bottling companies to prove their worth: disclosure.

The bottled water industry has little oversight right now and bottling companies don't have to disclose their source (including whether it is spring or tap) or whether it is treated. If these companies have nothing to hide and their water is as safe as they say, why don't they agree to some transparency and industry standards for safety and testing?

The irony is that this bottled water group believes they are under attack (from people worried about protecting the health of consumers and the environment, it would seem) and they say, "The threat to consumers is real." Of course they are indeed right, it is just that they are the threat to consumers and not the folks working to educate consumers about the reality of bottled water.

Here are the facts from the Union of Concerned Scientists:


  • Bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times more per gallon than tap water.


  • Tap water is actually held to higher standards than bottled water, and some brands of bottled water are just tap water in disguise.


  • Approximately 1.5 million barrels of oil are used to make plastic water bottles, while transporting these bottles burns even more oil.


  • The growth in bottled water production has increased water extraction in areas near bottling plants, leading to water shortages that affect nearby consumers and farmers.


  • In addition to the millions of gallons of water used in the plastic-making process, two gallons of water are wasted in the purification process for every gallon that goes into the bottles.


  • Nearly 90 percent of water bottles are not recycled and wind up in landfills where it takes thousands of years for the plastic to decompose.



It is time to get our priorities straight so we can be spending all our efforts making sure tap water in the U.S. is the best it can be and making sure the real people in need in developing countries have access to clean and safe water sources.






Tara Lohan is a managing editor at AlterNet.