water is booming despite environmental concerns, price
By Emily Gersema
WASHINGTON - Walk through the beverage aisle of a grocery
store and it is hard to miss the seemingly endless supply
of bottled water on the shelves. Sparkling, fizzy, mineral,
distilled, purified: Bottled water comes in many forms
as well as flavors such as lemon, black cherry, raspberry,
kiwi, and strawberry.
Manufacturers sold more than $7.7 billion worth of bottled
water in the United States last year, an increase of 12.3
percent from 2001, according to the Beverage Marketing
Corporation. Last year, the average U.S. consumer drank
21 gallons (79.5 liters) of bottled water, about 11 percent
more than in 2001, the marketing group says.
Some environmental groups and consumers are concerned
both about bottled water's price and effect on the world's
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) estimates
that bottled water is 240 times to 10,000 times more expensive
than tap water. While consumers may pay a few dollars
for every thousand gallons (liters) of tap water, they
can pay almost $2 per gallon (3.8 liter) of some brands
of bottled water.
The organization also says the booming bottled water
industry could be draining aquifers and other water resources,
contributing to pollution and producing energy inefficiencies.
There's "an immense waste of energy and plastic
and resources if you consider the number of bottles that
are made and transported and disposed of," said Erik
Olson, a lawyer for NRDC.
Researchers are warning that if water use continues to
increase at the current rate, the world will be in very
short supply in 22 years.
J. Darius Bikoff, president and chief executive of Energy
Brands Inc., says the water it markets is a tiny fraction
of total water usage.
"I don't think if you look at every gallon of water
that it has a big impact on total global production by
nature," said Bikoff, whose company makes the brands
Vitamin Water and Smart Water.
Lester Brown, head of the Earth Policy Research Institute,
agrees that bottled water companies are not a factor in
the depletion of water resources. He cites information
from the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization.
A consumer typically drinks a little more than a gallon
(3.8 liters) of water every day. But food companies and
farms worldwide use up to 1,300 gallons (4,921 liters)
every day to produce food, the U.N. agency says. That
means 70 percent of total water withdrawals are for producing
"If we're looking at supply problems, it's not likely
to have that much of an effect," Brown said of bottled
water production. He noted that some countries must rely
on bottled water to drink because some of their tap water
is too polluted.
About one-fourth of bottled water is tap water, according
to the International Bottled Water Association.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration requires beverage
companies to label their waters to define where the water
came from and if it's been purified or carbonated. Bottled
water can be classified with terms such as purified, spring,
sterile, and artesian, or well water.
Water is used for many things, from electricity production
to dishwashing. Some of the EPA's facts on water:
+ A person uses about two gallons (7.6 liters) of water
for brushing teeth.
+ When taking a five-minute shower, a person is soaked
by 25 gallons to 50 gallons (95 liters to 190 liters)
+ Automatic dishwashers generally use nine gallons to
12 gallons (34 liters to 45 liters), but someone washing
dishes by hand generally uses 20 gallons (76 liters).
+ Of all the Earth's water, only 1 percent is suitable
+ Many animals, fruits, and vegetables are made mostly
of water. An elephant is 70 percent water, a chicken is
75 percent water, an ear of corn is 80 percent water,
and a tomato is 95 percent water. An adult human being
is 50 percent to 65 percent water, a child 75 percent
+ It takes 1,851 gallons (7,000 liters) of water to refine
one barrel of crude oil.
+ Twenty-four gallons (91 liters) are needed to make
one pound (a half-kilogram) of plastic.