The International Bottled Water Association responds to the recent Mother Jones article “Bottled Water Comes From the Most Drought-Ridden Places in the Country,” which incorrectly claimed that the bottled water industry is a major contributor to California’s ongoing drought. Bottled water companies use a very small amount of water when measured against almost any other industry, are dedicated to responsibly protecting and preserving our vital water resources, and help people live healthier lives.
Provided below are the facts about these important issues:
Water and a Healthy Lifestyle
- Everyone needs to hydrate; that is a fact. Hydrating with water is not only one of the healthiest practices, it is also the most efficient from a water use standpoint. Drinking water, whether tap or bottled, uses the least amount of water to produce compared with any other beverage.
- Americans need to drink more water for their health according to nutritionists. Most people drink both tap and bottled water. And 40% of water consumed today is bottled water, thanks to its presence on the shelf next to other beverages. Bottled water is an important source of water for hydration.
- Drinking zero-calorie beverages, such as water, is regularly cited as a key component of a more healthful lifestyle. With one-third of American adults being overweight and another one-third obese, bottled water is an important and healthy choice. Bottled water has helped eliminate billions of calories from the diets of Americans who choose it over sugary beverages.
Water Use and Bottled Water Production
- The amount of water used for bottling water in the U.S. is very small -- less than 0.02% of the total groundwater withdrawn each year. While that figure may vary slightly by location, the amount of water used for bottled water is only a small fraction of overall water use in California, or any other state.
- To put it in context, the entire U.S. bottled water market was about 10 billion gallons in 2013. In contrast, the city of Los Angeles goes through that amount of tap water in less than three weeks. According to the UCLA Institute for Environment and Sustainability, at about 80%, agriculture is the largest user of water in the state, followed by urban residential use at 13%.
- Most of the bottled water that comes from California water sources is sold in California. In fact, the vast majority of bottled water companies in the U.S. use local water sources and distribute their products to nearby towns and states.
- 100% of all bottled water is intended for human consumption. However, less than one half of 1% of tap water is drunk by humans.
A Strong Environmental Focus
- The bottled water industry has a long and deeply-held tradition of effectively and responsibly protecting and managing our vital natural resources. Sustainable, protected, and naturally recharged water sources are the single most important aspect of our business.
- The bottled water industry supports comprehensive water resource management that regulates both the quality and quantity of groundwater, treats all users equitably, provides for the sustainability of the resource, is multijurisdictional in nature – as water does not respect the boundary of state lines – and balances the interests and rights of those using this natural resource today and in the future.
Bottled Water Regulation
- Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and by federal law the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the U.S. Environmental Agency (EPA) standards for tap water. In fact, bottled water regulations are more stringent than tap water standards when it comes to lead levels, coliform bacteria, and E. coli.
- All packaged foods and beverage products, including bottled water, have extensive federal labeling requirements. This includes listing the type of water in the container; the ingredients; the name and place of business of the manufacturer, packer, or distributor; the net weight; and, if required, nutrition labeling. In addition, almost all bottled water products have a phone number and/or website address on the label.
Supporting Public Water Systems
- The bottled water industry supports a strong public water system, which is important for providing citizens with clean and safe drinking water. In fact, many bottled water companies use public water sources for their purified bottled water products. This tap water then undergoes more quality processes to meet FDA’s standard for purified water. These treatments may include one or more of the following: reverse osmosis, distillation, micro-filtration, carbon filtration, ozonation, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The finished water is then sealed in a bottle under sanitary conditions to preserve its quality.
- IBWA strongly endorses the Water Resources Reform and Development Act of 2014. This important new law supports a strong American public water infrastructure and creates the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Authority (WIFIA). This program will provide low-interest federal loans to communities, which will reduce the cost of financing large water and wastewater infrastructure projects.
You can find more information about bottled water at www.bottledwater.org.