Bottled water

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A 1.5 liter bottle of water

Bottled water is drinking water, usually spring water or mineral water, or simply water that has been treated, and is sold in a sealed portable bottle. The worldwide bottled water industry is worth an estimated $22bn annually.

For health reasons, it is preferred in areas where the water is either too polluted or infested, but nowadays, bottled water is becoming increasingly favoured over tap water because it usually contains far less fluoride and chlorine, which are often included in tap water during processing. See fluoridation and chlorination.

As with many heavily marketed products, there may be a certain snob value to some of the more expensive brands of bottled water.


Bottled water sources

The most common types of bottled water are:

It should be noted that in some countries which do not have sufficiently developed water treatment facilities, it is preferable to consume prepackaged water. The large vats (up to a few litres) that such water is sold in may, or may not, be considered bottled water.

Bottled water in the United States

Bottled water is a somewhat contentious topic in the United States, where the water treatment system is quite sophisticated (so the tap water is drinkable). Some claim that the consumption of the more expensive brands of bottled water is a form of snobbery. In addition, a lot of the bottled water is actually very close to, or in fact, tap water. Some bottled waters, such as Penta Water even claim to have a new structure of water with associated health benefits, though this is generally regarded as pseudoscience.

What's more, bottled water can cost up to 10,000 times the amount of tap water by volume. That is, maintaining municipal water systems typically cost .1-.2 cents per gallon, where a 1/2 liter bottle of water at 99 cents ends up costing around 8$ a gallon.

Bottled water history in USA

The increased use of bottle water in US recently may have been contributed to several factors. In 1993, Cryptosporidium caused 400,000 people to get sick in Wisconsin. This led to a sensitized media which widely reported another far smaller water infection that happened in Washington, DC in the year 2000. Environmental Protection Agency mandated that tap water should have no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic. A highly reported attempt was made to change the requirement from the previous 10ppb to 50ppb. Coupled with these widely reported incidents is a trend where many Americans are getting health conscious, resulting in bottled water securing its place in their daily lives.


In the United States, nutritional information on the water bottle must be precise. Bottled water is regulated by the FDA, who demand suppliers use an "approved source", which the FDA defines as:

[approved source] means a source of water...that has been inspected and the water sampled, analyzed, and found to be of a safe and sanitary quality according to applicable laws and regulations of state and local government agencies having jurisdiction.

However, the FDA does not define guidelines for which regulations may be considered applicable, nor set requirements for water sources in the absence of applicable laws. Additionally, bottled water suppliers are not required to document the approval of their sources. Water bottlers are permitted to sell contaminated water if, and only if, their labelling notes the water contains "excessive bacteria" or "excessive chemical substances". Water bottlers are additionally not required to test for the presence of E. coli, cryptosporidium, giardia, asbestos, or certain organic compounds such as benzenes; [1] ( However, most bottled water is in fact heavily tested.

As regards to what constitutes each type of different water, individual states regulate with their own laws precisely what mineral content needs to be in the water for it to be "mineral water". In the US, the minimal mineral content is 250 parts per million of minerals in a litre of water. With these figures, certain mineral waters in the US would only qualify as spring water in some other countries.

The Penn & Teller Tasting Test

In 2003, Penn & Teller, a Showtime television network program, conducted an informal taste test of bottled water. They found about 75 percent of New Yorkers preferred tap water to bottled waters. They also hired a "water sommelier" to sell US$7 bottled water to the patrons in a fancy Californian restaurant. The water sommelier filled each bottle with a garden hose directly from the tap, however, people claimed to know the difference between a bottle of eau du robinet (French for "faucet water") and Agua de Culo (Spanish for "ass water") before they were informed of its source. In the end, the hosts Penn and Teller jokingly offered to sell their brand of water for US$150 per bottle.

Coca-Cola's 'H2NO' Campaign

In 2001, Coca-Cola teamed up with The Olive Garden restaurant to decrease the levels of "tap water incidence." This campaign, distributed in a marketing package called "H2NO," used slogans such as "Just say no to H2O" in order to train restaurant servers to sell drinks, including bottled water, to customers. Coke posted the following web page until media scrutiny and bad press caused them to take it down. [2] (

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