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How much do we drink?

EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard, 2011: How much do we drink?

January 25, 2012

Bottled water companies want you to think their water is special, but they continue to hide essential facts about their products, such as the geographic location of the water's source, purification and test results.

Here are some other little known facts that the bottled water industry would rather their consumers not ponder:


  • Every 27 hours Americans consume enough bottled water to circle the entire equator with plastic bottles stacked end to end.1

  • In just a single week, those bottles would stretch more than halfway to the moon — 155,400 miles.1
  • Between 2004 and 2009, US consumption of bottled water increased by 24 percent. Bottled water sales have more than quadrupled in the last 20 years (BMC 2010).

  • The federal government does not mandate that bottled water be any safer than tap water – the chemical pollution standards are nearly identical (EWG 2008). In fact, bottled water is less regulated than tap water.

  • Close to half of all bottled water is sourced from municipal tap water (BMC 2010, Food and Water Watch 2010).

  • It takes an estimated 2,000 times more energy to produce bottled water than to produce an equivalent amount of tap water (Gleick 2009).

  • Bottled water production and transportation for the U.S. market consumes more than 30 million barrels of oil each year and produces as much carbon dioxide as 2 million cars (Gleick 2009).

  • Plastic water bottles are the fastest growing form of municipal solid waste in the United States. Each year more than 4 billion pounds of PET plastic bottles end up in landfills or as roadside litter (Corporate Accountability International 2010).

  • While plastic bottles can be recycled, the majority are not. Moreover, plastic never actually degrades; it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. In some parts of the ocean, plastic outweighs plankton by a six-to-one ratio (Moore 2001).

  • Bottled water has indirect economic costs. Disposing of plastic water bottle waste, for example, costs cities nationwide an estimated $70 million in landfill tipping fees each year (Corporate Accountability International 2010).

Footnotes.
1 Calculation assumes the water fills 16.9 fluid ounce bottles, 8 inches in height. Calculation is based on 8.4 billion gallons of bottled water consumed annually in the U.S. (23 million gallons per day) (BMC 2010); and the Earth's circumference at the equator, 24,901 miles.

References

BMC (Beverage Marketing Corporation). 2010. Bottled Water in the U.S.: 2010 Edition. Available: http://www.beveragemarketing.com

Corporate Accountability International. 2010. Getting States Off the Bottle, Second Edition. Available: http://www.stopcorporateabuse.org/GettingStatesOffTheBottle [accessed May 10 2010].

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2008. Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants. Available: http://www.ewg.org/reports/bottledwater [accessed November 12 2010].

Food and Water Watch. 2010. Bottling Our Cities' Tap Water. Available: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/bottled/bottling-our-cities-tap-water/ [accessed September 21 2010].

Gleick PH, Cooley HS. 2009. Energy implications of bottled water. Environmental Research Letters. January-March 2009. Volume 4, Issue 1.

Moore CJ, Moore SL, Leecaster MK, Weisberg SB. 2001. A comparison of plastic and plankton in the North Pacific central gyre. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42: 1297-1300.