Getting Off the Bottle

Corporate Accountability International (CAI) surveyed five states (Minnesota, Maryland, Colorado, New Mexico and Oregon) and found that taxpayers in those states are shelling out between $78,000 and $475,000 a year for government to buy bottled water, a resource that essentially flows free from public taps. CAI blames the marketing and promotion of bottled water for successfully frightening people about tap water quality and driving them towards bottled water. Bottled water ad campaigns have convinced one in five people that the only place to get clean drinking water is from a bottle. Fiji brand water, for example, ran an ad campaign ridiculing the tap water quality in Cleveland, Ohio, so Cleveland did taste and purity tests on its public water and compared them to Fiji water. The tests revealed that Fiji water contained 6.3 micrograms of arsenic per liter, while the city's tap water had none. Fiji also lost in taste tests against Cleveland's tap water. Bottled water costs 2,000 times what tap water costs, and up to 40 percent of mass-produced bottled water brands, like Aquafina and Dasani, originate from the same source as tap water. What's more, tap water is subject to more regulations than bottled water. The manufacture and disposal of millions of plastic water bottles is a problem, too -- the process uses enough oil to fuel three million cars for a year, and about 80% of used water bottles go into landfills. The rest get incinerated causing more pollution. As people become more aware of the unneccessary expense and environmental problems caused by bottled water, companies like Nestlé are fighting back with campaigns portraying bottled water as "Earth-friendly", and touting the company's "environmental stewardship."


You can do better than including nonsense like "up to 40 percent", which, of course, includes 0% and therefore makes no case. Also, we're grown-ups here: "..uses enough oil to fuel a million cars for a year" is meaningless (is the car an H2? Or a Prius?). Oil is measured in barrels.

The statistic refers to a million cars, of the average types that are currently on the American roadways, without naming the models of cars. The idea that researchers should have to specify models in this comparison is disingenuous at best, and at worst, absurd. Oil may be measured in barrels by refiners, but people don't buy it by the barrel at the pump. They buy it by the gallon, or better yet, a tank full. People can relate to how much gas they put in a car if it is explained that way.

Anne Landman


There should have been quantative data obtained by the research which was used to produce the dumbed-down analogy. I don't think it is inappropriate to expect your site to produce quantative data, and for you to expect your audience to question sources of data. RIAA have produced hand-waving data for years on music copying, for example, that evaporates when examined.

You didn't comment about the use of "up to" figures either.


Tim, I suggest you contact Corporate Accountability International, who did the study, for more detailed information on their data and other information they referenced/ I worked off of their press release, which did not provide the details you seek.
Anne Landman


Thanks. The CAI report is here and says:

The production of bottled water is much more energy-intensive than the production of public drinking water. On a national level, it is estimated that producing and transporting bottles for the U.S. bottled water market requires the energy equivalent of as much as 54 million barrels of oil each year. This is enough oil to fuel roughly three million U.S. cars for a year and is as much as 2000 times the energy it takes to produce and distribute tap water.

This references the detailed report at

I have read most of the pros and cons about drinking bottled water, and agree that if you are certain the water from your spigot is potable, go with it. However, there is still a need for bottled water in those homes where a personal well supplies the household water, and that water is full of iron and reeks of sulfur. You, the homeowner, may get used to both the taste and the smell of such water, but if you find relatives/friends bringing jugs of water with them when they come to visit, you had better consider supplying them with water from a source other than your tap. I happen to live in one mid-sized community among several mid-sized communities, where each home draws from its own personal well, and where the supplying aquifer stratum is full of iron. I use bottled water for drinking, ice cubes, and making coffee/tea, soups, etc.
Additionally, natural gas drilling is threatening water resources in NY and the midwest. At issue is whether drilling companies know enough about how to protect groundwater sources from contamination by a drilling procedure called "fracking," the term used for the hydraulic fracturing of rock formations to make them produce more gas. Land owners report that exposure to fracking chemicals has made them sick and that fracking has contaminated streams and drinking water wells on their property, rendering them unusable.