The real cost of bottled water | WWF

The real cost of bottled water

Posted on 03 May 2001    
Gland, Switzerland - In light of a new independent study WWF, the conservation organization, is urging people to drink tap water, which is often as good as bottled water, for the benefit of the environment and their wallets.According to the study, Bottled Water: Understanding a social phenomenon, commissioned by WWF, bottled water may be no safer, or healthier than tap water in many countries while selling for up to 1000 times the price. Yet, it is the fastest growing drinks industry in the world and is estimated to be worth US$22 billion annually.The study reveals that the bottled water market is partly fuelled by concerns over the safety of municipal water and by the marketing of many brands which portray them as being drawn from pristine sources and as being healthier than tap water. However, some bottled waters only differ from tap water in the fact that they are distributed in bottles rather than through pipes. In fact there are more standards regulating tap water in Europe and the US than those applied to the bottled water industry."Our attitudes towards tap water are being shaped by the pollution which is choking the rivers and streams which should be veins of life," argues Richard Holland, Director of WWF's Living Waters Campaign. "We must clean up and properly protect these waters at source, and not just at the treatment works, so that we can all rest easy in drinking from the tap."The study acknowledges that while bottled water has the advantage of being generally safer in areas where tap water may be contaminated, boiling or filtering local water renders it safe at a much lower cost for people on a low income. However, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), in terms of nutritional value, bottled water is no better than tap water. It may contain small amounts of minerals but so does tap water from many public municipal water supplies.Some consumers prefer bottled water to tap water for taste reasons. WWF argues that water companies have an important responsibility to ensure that they consistently produce water that is not only safe but also pleasant to drink.The study also finds that every year 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water. Toxic chemicals can be released into the environment during the manufacture and disposal of the bottles. Furthermore, a quarter of the 89 billion litres of water bottled worldwide annually are consumed outside their country of origin. Emissions of the green house gas carbon dioxide, caused by transporting bottled water within and between countries, contribute to the global problem of climate change. "Bottled water isn't a long term sustainable solution to securing access to healthy water," said Richard Holland. "Clean water is a basic right. Protecting our rivers, streams and wetlands will help ensure that tap water remains a service which delivers good quality drinking water for everyone at a fair price."For further information:Lisa HadeedCommunications Manager, WWF Living Waters CampaignTel:+ 41 22 364 9030E-mail:

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