What’s the Big Deal with Bottled Water?
Australia’s annual consumption of bottled water is about 600
million litres. To sell this much bottled water the industry
uses approximately 1 billion litres of water each year. In
environmental terms the production and distribution of this
volume of bottled water created more than 60,000 tonnes of
greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions 13,000
cars generate in one year.
The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change
estimates that 200ml of oil is used to produce, package,
transport and refrigerate each litre bottle of bottled water. As
a result, at least 120 million litres of oil is used in the
manufacture and distribution of bottled water in Australia
every year. As a result, bottled water has a higher carbon
footprint that is more than 300 times greater per litre than
A comprehensive American study , published in
Environmental Research Letters found the total energy
required for bottled water production was as much as 2,000
times the energy cost of producing tapwater. Much of that
energy, in the form of plastic created from limited oil
reserves, is squandered as up to 65% of single use bottles
used for commercial bottled water are not recycled, finding
their way into landfill or waterways.
Yet bottled water can cost up to 500 times more that the water
readily available from municipally provided taps. In some
cases, it is, in fact, the same water. Many millions of litres of
bottled water sold in Australia is sourced from municipal
water. Nor is bottled water necessarily any more safe. In
Australia bacteria, chemical disinfectants and aluminium
have been found in bottled water samples. In blind taste tests
around the world drinkers cannot accurately identify bottled
water from tap water.
In summary, when compared to most Australian tap water,
the bottled water alternative is a very expensive beverage,
with negligible, if any, additional health benefits. It also
greatly contributes to greenhouse gas emissions, precious
water resource extraction and creates a huge solid waste
The consumer advocacy group, Choice, found in blind taste tests
that drinkers could not distinguish between a popular brand of
bottled water, Mt Franklin, and Sydney tap water.
Clean Up The World found that, on average, the price
Australians were paying for bottled water was over 250 times the
price of tap water. With some brands of bottled water the price
difference can be 500 times more expensive.
A report was commissioned by the Weekend Australian and
prepared by the University of Technology, Sydney. Dr. Grant
Hose, research fellow in eco toxicology at UTS, who oversaw the
reports analysis, said the results showed that the notion that
bottled water was somehow more pure than tap water was
incorrect. Dr Hose said "Tap water is as healthy for you as bottled
water - it's no different".
The London On Tap project notes that 2.7 million tonnes of
plastic are used to bottle water each year worldwide. And that a
quarter of all bottled water is produced for export markets. This
see about 22 million tonnes of bottled water are transferred each
year from country to country.
The Federation of Canadian Municipalities , when suggesting
that their various councils reduce bottled water use at municipal
facilities, observed that "it takes about three litres of water to
manufacture a one litre plastic bottle of water."
Researchers from the Pacific Institute in California calculate that
the annual consumption of bottled water in the US in 2007
required an energy input equivalent to between 32 and 54
million barrels of oil or a third of a percent of total US primary
Fast Company magazine writes, “San Pellegrino's 1-liter glass
bottles--so much a part of the mystique of the water itself--weigh
five times what plastic bottles weigh, dramatically adding to
freight costs and energy consumption. The bottles are washed
and rinsed, with mineral water, before being filled with sparkling
Pellegrino--it uses up 2 liters of water to prepare the bottle for the
liter we buy. The bubbles in San Pellegrino come naturally from
the ground, as the label says, but not at the San Pellegrino source.
Pellegrino chooses its CO2 carefully--it is extracted from
supercarbonated volcanic springwaters in Tuscany, then trucked
north and bubbled into Pellegrino.”
Even More Bottled Water Research
Click Here for heaps more research into the consumption and
environmental impact of bottled water. See also what other
people elsewhere in the world are doing about bottled water. And
learn how bold action strengthens community spirit.