Don’t Drink the Water!

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.

5 thoughts on “Don’t Drink the Water!

  1. I can appreciate this post because it speaks to the importance of being an informed consumer. Being an informed consumer is beneficial not only because it can help us save money (which we consumers all generally like to do), but also because it challenges us to question the relationship we have with those companies from which we buy products and/or services. I believe we are at a point where most consumers are for the most part aware that bottled water often contains water from the tap. While this is an issue, there is a greater one to be considered: that many bottled water companies are blatantly misleading consumers by falsely claiming a product to be something it is not. The Chicago Faucet Shoppe brought this issue to light in its 2012 lawsuit against Nestle.

  2. As you noted in your blog post, all of the credit for the rise of bottled water should be attributed to the marketing departments of the beverage companies. Advertising campaigns are meant to sell the sizzle and not the steak, and that is certainly true in this case. You note the water quality is not better and is even sometimes worse than tap water. However, scare tactics and linking lifestyles with these bottles of water have dramatically improved sales. People buy these overrated products because they feel it projects a positive image about how they live and their ability to afford “upscale” water. It’s unfortunate that some people don’t actually pay attention to the important aspect, water quality.

    I would love to see public utility providers band together and go on the offensive against these bottled water companies. Coordination would certainly be a huge problem given the number of municipalities, but ad campaigns targeted at bottled water and its quality issues could go a long way to combat the rise of the industry.

    • I really like this post and it relates to a post I wrote about healthy consumption. Companies that are selling these products that are advertised as healthy but in reality are not should be penalized for false advertising. Consumers are too busy to take the time and read the ingredients on everything they eat, and it should be the companies responsibility to produce products that are as advertised and as well, healthy. America is going down a path of obesity and food companies are continuing to add to this lethal problem. If the food companies or the government doesn’t do something about this, it will be hard to stop America from eating themselves to an early grave. It is too hard to change the lifestyles and eating habits of every American, and expecting them to make this change themselves is clearly not working. A new national initiative must be made.

  3. Growing up my parents only bought bottled water if we were having a large get together at our house. I prefer to drink tap water because it does taste better and I know at least in my city back home the water is very clean and has added minerals to improve teeth strength or something like that. The whole bottled water phenomenon is a huge scam. Marketers and bottled water companies are getting rich by creating fear in people. Well people should research some of the things they consume frequently and if they don’t then they can continue wasting their money if they want to. I think some people who are obsessed with bottle buy it as a form of conspicuous consumption. They may feel important that they spend 4 dollars on a bottle of water when they can get better water for free. The other downside to bottled water is the amount of waste it creates. In a perfect world people would always recycle and all those used bottled would be converted into something useful but in reality they end up sitting in landfills for years. I also wonder about what effects we’ll start seeing as a resulted of increased bottle usage. I don’t know if there is much is any data about this out there yet but I would imagine that continually drinking water out of a plastic bottle (especially one that has been on in the sun for an extended period of time) would put toxic in a person’s body.

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