Five Reasons Not to Drink Bottled Water

Paul Donahue

August 2005

1. Bottled water is for the wealthy

Bottled water is not necessarily safer or cleaner than tap water, yet it costs more than gasoline and is up to10,000 times more expensive than tap water. Bottled water is a choice only for those who can afford it. More than one billion people around the world lack reliable access to safe drinking water. Clean water could be provided to everyone on Earth for about $1.7 billion a year, less than a quarter of global annual spending on bottled water. The wealthy often buy bottled water while ignoring the decaying conditions of public water systems, leaving the disadvantaged to deal with their water source.

2. Bottled water is NOT safer

Approximately one-third of the bottled water brands recently tested by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) violated, in at least one sample, an enforceable standard or exceeded microbiological-purity guidelines. In one study, published in The Archives of Family Medicine, researchers compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland, and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria. The scientists concluded that "use of bottled water on the assumption of purity can be misguided." Admittedly, both kinds of water suffer from occasional contamination problems, but tap water is more stringently monitored and tightly regulated than bottled water. And then there are the plastic containers. Eight of the ten 5-gallon polycarbonate jugs tested by Consumer Reports left residues of the endocrine system disrupter Bisphenol A in the water. Many of the smaller bottled water containers are made of Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) which can leach DEHP, another endocrine-disrupting chemical and probable human carcinogen.

3. Bottled water often carries misleading labeling

Approximately 25% of bottled water is merely tap water that has been processed and repackaged. Rules allow manufacturers to call their product “spring water” even if it has been chemically treated. In one case in the NRDC test, water from an industrial parking lot next to a hazardous waste site was marketed as “spring water” from a pristine source.

4. Bottling water harms the environment

The water bottling industry profits from the sale of this common resource at the expense of the environment. Pumping can dry out springs, devastate wetland ecosystems, and drain aquifers. Transporting water from its source to the supermarket shelves is an expensive waste of energy. Additionally, hundreds of thousands of tons of non-recycled plastic water bottles sit in landfills worldwide. Less than five percent of the 40 billion pounds of plastic produced every year are actually recycled. Plastics are now the fastest growing sector of the waste stream and presently take up more than 25 percent of the volume of material sent to landfills every year.

5. It is our water, not theirs

The $22 billion a year bottled water industry is dominated by huge multinational corporations such as Nestlé, Danone, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo. These corporations are actively engaged in trying to privatize and commodify a natural resource that belongs to all of us. When citizens’ groups, communities or states have tried to regulate the commercialization of this vital resource by the water bottling companies, the companies have fought back aggressively, thwarting or attempting to thwart the will of the people. Every dollar we give them helps them grow stronger and further endangers our public resource.

The above information has come largely from:

“Bad to the Last Drop” by Tom Standage, published on August 2, 2005 by the International Herald Tribune

“Fact Over Fiction: Why pick tap over bottled water?”, published by Public Citizen and available at

“What's in that bottle?”, Consumer Reports, January 2003