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What’s the Big Deal with Bottled Water?

Australia’s annual consumption of bottled water is about 600

million litres. To sell this much bottled water the industry

uses approximately 1 billion litres of water each year. In

environmental terms the production and distribution of this

volume of bottled water created more than 60,000 tonnes of

greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions 13,000

cars generate in one year.

The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change

estimates that 200ml of oil is used to produce, package,

transport and refrigerate each litre bottle of bottled water. As

a result, at least 120 million litres of oil is used in the

manufacture and distribution of bottled water in Australia

every year. As a result, bottled water has a higher carbon

footprint that is more than 300 times greater per litre than

tap water.

A comprehensive American study , published in

Environmental Research Letters found the total energy

required for bottled water production was as much as 2,000

times the energy cost of producing tapwater. Much of that

energy, in the form of plastic created from limited oil

reserves, is squandered as up to 65% of single use bottles

used for commercial bottled water are not recycled, finding

their way into landfill or waterways.

Yet bottled water can cost up to 500 times more that the water

readily available from municipally provided taps. In some

cases, it is, in fact, the same water. Many millions of litres of

bottled water sold in Australia is sourced from municipal

water. Nor is bottled water necessarily any more safe. In

Australia bacteria, chemical disinfectants and aluminium

have been found in bottled water samples. In blind taste tests

around the world drinkers cannot accurately identify bottled

water from tap water.

In summary, when compared to most Australian tap water,

the bottled water alternative is a very expensive beverage,

with negligible, if any, additional health benefits. It also

greatly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, precious

water resource extraction and creates a huge solid waste

problem.

 
 

• The consumer advocacy group, Choice, found in blind taste tests

that drinkers could not distinguish between a popular brand of

bottled water, Mt Franklin, and Sydney tap water.

Clean Up The World found that, on average, the price

Australians were paying for bottled water was over 250 times the

price of tap water. With some brands of bottled water the price

difference can be 500 times more expensive.

• A report was commissioned by the Weekend Australian and

prepared by the University of Technology, Sydney. Dr. Grant

Hose, research fellow in eco toxicology at UTS, who oversaw the

reports analysis, said the results showed that the notion that

bottled water was somehow more pure than tap water was

incorrect. Dr Hose said "Tap water is as healthy for you as bottled

water - it's no different".

• The London On Tap project notes that 2.7 million tonnes of

plastic are used to bottle water each year worldwide. And that a

quarter of all bottled water is produced for export markets. This

see about 22 million tonnes of bottled water are transferred each

year from country to country.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities , when suggesting

that their various councils reduce bottled water use at municipal

facilities, observed that "it takes about three litres of water to

manufacture a one litre plastic bottle of water."

Researchers from the Pacific Institute in California calculate that 

the annual consumption of bottled water in the US in 2007

required an energy input equivalent to between 32 and 54

million barrels of oil or a third of a percent of total US primary

energy consumption.

Fast Company magazine writes, “San Pellegrino's 1-liter glass

bottles--so much a part of the mystique of the water itself--weigh

five times what plastic bottles weigh, dramatically adding to

freight costs and energy consumption. The bottles are washed

and rinsed, with mineral water, before being filled with sparkling

Pellegrino--it uses up 2 liters of water to prepare the bottle for the

liter we buy. The bubbles in San Pellegrino come naturally from

the ground, as the label says, but not at the San Pellegrino source.

Pellegrino chooses its CO2 carefully--it is extracted from

supercarbonated volcanic springwaters in Tuscany, then trucked

north and bubbled into Pellegrino.”

Even More Bottled Water Research

Click Here for heaps more research into the consumption and

environmental impact of bottled water. See also what other

people elsewhere in the world are doing about bottled water. And

learn how bold action strengthens community spirit.