Simple truth, bottled water is just water. Albeit water with some fantastic marketing – scenes of ice cold streams, snowy mountain tops and natural filtration (whatever that is). In fact, selling water is pretty much ‘pure’ marketing, something that probably could nor have been imagined 30 years ago.
However this fact isn’t stopping people from buying it or multinational corporations from selling it. Multinational corporations are stepping in to purchase groundwater and distribution rights wherever they can, and the bottled water industry is an important component in their drive to commoditize what many feel is a basic human right: the access to safe and affordable water. Estimates variously place worldwide bottled water sales at between $50 and $100 billion each year, with the market expanding at the startling annual rate of 7 percent.
In terms of sustainability, bottled water is a big loser. It costs a lot, it is extremely wasteful and in most cases, the water is simply filtered tap water, the same water you can get from your local municipal water system.
The price of a gallon of bottled water is roughly the same as a gallon of gasoline (around $3). Considering water is cheaper to buy as a commodity than crude oil, it doesn’t need to go through an expensive refining process – why does it cost so much? There are four main reasons: 1) people are willing to pay this much for the convenience, 2) marketing expenses, 3) distribution and bottling expenses, and 4) higher profit margins.
Bottled water produces up to 1.5 million tons of plastic waste per year. According to Food and Water Watch, that plastic requires up to 47 million gallons of oil per year to produce. And while the plastic used to bottle beverages is of high quality and in demand by recyclers, over 80 percent of plastic bottles are simply thrown away.
Below is an excellent expansive graph by Online Education illustrates the tale of bottled water.