Bottled Water—Why is it so Expensive?

bottled waterWe know that bottled water is much more expensive than tap water. But is it better for us than what comes out of the spout? Today we ask the questions: why bottled water is so expensive, and is it worth the hefty price tag?

Types of Bottled Water

Before you compare prices between tap and bottled water, you have to check the contents. What are the differences between tap and bottled water? Is bottled water healthier?

Bottled water comes from three sources:

  • Purified Water – Tap water that has been filtered to keep out chemicals or contaminants by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or carbon filtration. Unfortunately, often beneficial minerals are also removed in the process.
  • Distilled Water – Distilled water is excellent for use in small appliances such as steam irons, but all nutrients are lost in the distilling process.
  • Spring Water – Despite the image of mountains and lakes, spring water is any water, treated or not, that comes from an underground source. Laboratory testing has shown that bottled spring water has the most deformities of the three different sources according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. [1]

Though “purified” and “distilled” water might sound like you are getting a better quality of water, it is not necessarily true. EPA testing of drinking water that comes out of taps is much more stringent than bottled water testing.

In fact, PepsiCo’s CEO created quite a scandal in 2007 when he publically admitted that PepsiCo’s brand of bottled water, Aquafina, is basically tap water. Both Aquafina and Coca Cola’s Dasani bottled water are now known to be purified tap water and are labeled PWS, Public Water Source. [2]

So the bottom line is thatSurprise!there is virtually no difference between bottled water and the water that runs through your house’s pipes.

Tap Water vs Bottled Water Costs

Comparing the price of bottled water to tap water is tantamount to comparing the price of fine wine to vinegar.

The average price for a gallon of bottled water in the US is $1.22, which is about 300 times the price of tap water. If a family of four were to use bottled water by the gallon for all of their household needs, their monthly water bill would be $9,000. [3]

When you compare the price of a half-liter bottle sold in a restaurant or convenience store, the costs are an astounding 10,000 to 20,000 times more expensive than a half liter of tap water.

So Why Do People Buy Bottled Water

Despite the fact that there are no health benefits to bottled water and that it is much more expensive than tap water, sales go up every year. In 2016 bottled water outsold carbonated drinks for the first time ever, and the annual sales in the US alone has reached $12 billion. [4]

Putting aside the rare cases where tap water is not fit for consumption, the billion-dollar question is why is bottled water so popular?

When it comes to bottled water sold in restaurants, the answer is intriguing: sales are constantly on the rise for the simple reason that customers are embarrassed to order tap water. Many fear that they will look cheap or boorish if they ask for tap water rather than order bottled water. A survey conducted by the UK newspaper the Guardian found that 57% of the respondents think that tap water should automatically be served at restaurants and that 71% were uncomfortable asking for free water. [5]

But the real secret to why people buy bottled water is the great job that the companies are doing to convince consumers that bottled water is fresher and healthier than tap water. The costs of producing bottled water — raw materials, packaging, transportationare negligible compared to the money that the companies pour into marketingand what a great job they are doing! With images of babbling brooks and spectacular glaciers they evoke associations of the best that nature has to offer. [3]

Other marketing tricks/tools include misleading tag lines such as Noble Pureau’s “value-added water” and Sydney Water’s “ultra-pure water.” When Nature’s Best Organic water was confronted with the fact that water, which contains no carbon, is not organic, Warren Peffer, Nature’s CEO, responded that the Organic is part of the company name, not a description of the water. [6]

Bottled Water and the Environment

In addition to all of the information showing that bottled water is not healthier than tap water and that water is hundreds if not thousands times more expensive when bought by the bottle, the website www.banthebottle.net also teaches us about bottled water’s damaging impact on the environment.

For example, the bottles take 400-1000 years to decompose, and only 20% of water bottles are being recycled. The amount of petroleum wasted in manufacturing these bottles could supply one million cars with a year’s worth of fuel. [7]

The Final Note

The bottom line is that bottled water is so expensive because we are willing to pay the price. As long as the demand continues to go up steadily, there is no reason to lower the price to the consumer. So next time you buy that six-pack of bottled water, think three times: once if it is better than your tap water, second is it really worth the money, and last, will you be recycling those bottles.

References

[1] https://www.nrdc.org/stories/truth-about-tap
[2] http://abcnews.go.com/Business/aquafina-source-tap-water/story?id=3428260
[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/video/index/278580/why-is-bottled-water-so-expensive/
[4] https://www.statista.com/statistics/252408/market-share-of-bottled-still-water-in-the-us-by-brand/   
[5]
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/may/11/british-embarrassment-over-asking-for-tap-water-in-bars-fuels-plastic-bottle-waste-survey
 
[6] https://www.quora.com/Why-is-bottled-water-so-much-more-expensive-than-soda  
[7] www.banthebottle.net  

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