In 2016, bottled water surpassed carbonated soft drinks to become the largest beverage category by volume in the United States. Americans today drink more bottled water than milk or beer. To produce the roughly 50 billion water bottles that are sold in the US every year, about 17 million barrels of oil are needed. Absurdly, more water goes into making a bottle of water than goes inside it. A recent study found that North American companies use 1.39 liters of water to make 1 liter of bottled water.
“Bottled water effectively reshaped the beverage marketplace,” said Michael C. Bellas, chairman, and CEO, of Beverage Marketing Corporation. “When Perrier first entered the country in the 1970s, few would have predicted the heights to which bottled water would eventually climb. Where once it would have been unimaginable to see Americans walking down the street carrying plastic bottles of water, or driving around with them in their car’s cup holders, now that’s the norm,” he added.
A significant portion of bottled water’s growth (44 percent since 2010) has come from people switching to bottled water from other less-healthy packaged drinks. And nine out of ten Americans (91 percent) want bottled water to be available wherever other drinks are sold, according to a survey conducted on behalf of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) by The Harris Poll.
Companies that make bottled water are not susceptible to the same scrutiny as public water sources. They don’t need to have the water tested for viruses or disclose to the public any problems that might arise with them. Most do not even publicly disclose where the water comes from, so most Americans know far less about their bottled water than about their tap water.
Of the 25 percent of bottled water, that is tap water, it is impossible to say how much of it is treated after being taken from the tap. When you buy bottled water in the store you may just be buying the water from your sink.
The Food and Water Watch report also determined that bottled water can be around 2,000 times more expensive than tap water. A gallon of single-use bottled water can cost $9.50 total, compared to less than half a cent per gallon of tap water.