Many brands of bottled water use carefully chosen names and visuals to evoke imagery of a babbling brook or crystal-clear spring deep in the untouched mountains of some faraway countryside. Believing that your bottled water came from such a pristine source can influence your experience and convince you that you’re drinking the best water available.
This imagery often hides the fact that your bottled water isn’t coming from a spring or river at all, but rather from the same municipal water supply that your tap water comes from. While many brands do bottle their water at sources consistent with their messaging, others are simply selling you tap water at a cost 30 times what you would pay by drinking your water at home.
Let’s conduct a deep dive: where is your bottled water coming from?
The companies that bottle water in America are split down the middle – a little more than 50% of the bottled water is derived from “spring water.” According to the EPA spring water is defined as water collected “where water flows naturally to the earth’s surface or from a borehole that taps into the underground source.”
The rest of the bottled water, a little less than 50%, is “purified water,” or water that is simply municipal tap water that has been filtered or treated. Brands like Arrowhead and Crystal Geyser use spring water, while brands like Dasani and Aquafina use purified municipal water.
Of course, where the water comes from geographically is also concerned. As this map from Mother Jones demonstrates, during the height of the drought that crippled California most of the big brands bottled their water from sources in the quenched state.
Most of the brands are aware of the potential for backlash associated with bottling water from a state in constant drought or near-drought conditions. The reason why so many brands opt to use California as the source of their water is convenience – most company headquarters and facilities are located in California, making it easier for companies to continue bottling there.
Nestle famously found themselves in hot water during the drought when the public learned that Nestle’s permits to take water from the area hadn’t been reviewed for over 30 years. Worse, the company was paying the U.S. Forest Service just $524 per year to pump 30 million gallons of water out of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Many of the most popular brands of bottled water, like Fiji Water, are sourced from locations thousands of miles away from the United States even though our country has an abundance of clean and treatable tap water.
The ethics behind importing water from around the world and bottling it when we can use our own water are murky at best. The shipping costs alone for drinks like Fiji Water, Evian, and San Pellegrino prove that the allure of foreign-sourced water outranks the ethical and logical problems with drinking it.
Since most of your bottled water is simply water from your tap, why not save a substantial amount of money and do what’s best for the environment? If you’re concerned about your water quality simply install a water filter from Enviro Water Products and enjoy fresher, better tasting drinking water that you can fill in a reusable bottle for on-the-go consumption.