Bottled water costs roughly two thousand times the price of tapped water. This begs the question, what is it about tap water that drives consumer demand? Consumers believe that they are getting a far superior product than tap water. But this demand for bottled water is new; prior to the late 1980s the bottled water market did not exist. In the early 1990s, the budding bottled water companies launched multi-million dollar campaigns to scare consumers into believing that their tapped water is unsafe. The President of Quaker Oats Company’s US beverage division, Susan Wellington, declared “when we’re done, tap water will be relegated toshowers and washing dishes.” Fiji Water disparaged tap water in an advertizing campaign, which stated “the label says Fiji because it’s not bottled in Cleaveland.” Implying that Cleaveland’s tap water was substandard, the city of Cleaveland conducted a series of tests on its water. The results of Cleaveland’s study found that Fiji water was actually lower quality that Cleaveland’s tap water – Fiji water even lost in blind taste tests to Cleavland’s tap water! What is shocking is that tap water consistently beats bottled water in taste tests across the country. “Bottled water is the biggest advertizing and marketing trick of all time,” asserted Barbara Lippert, an Ad critic of Adweek Media.
Bottles decorated with images of mountains and rivers mislead consumers to believe that they are getting a safe, healthy product. However, the product itself is actually more dangerous to their health than tap water, in most cases. The quality of tap water must live up to daily scrutiny by municipal water districts, yet tap water is largely unregulated. Only a single person at the FDA oversees the regulation of bottled water. While some bottled water does come from idyllic locales such as the Fiji islands, Aquafina and Dasani are simply bottled tap water. In a quality study of the leading bottled water brands, tests found contaminants such as radioactive materials, arsenic and chemicals found in paint thinners. Many of these chemicals leached from the plastic into the water.