EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard, 2011
Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Nneka Leiba, MPH, Analyst; Sean Gray, MS, Senior Analyst; Jane Houlihan, MSCE, Sr VP for Research

EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard, 2011

report card

Each "best on transparency" bottled water brand shows a specific geographic location of its water source and treatment method on the label and posts purity testing online. The "worst on transparency" bottled waters list no information on the water's source location, treatment or purity, online or on the label. These lists are drawn from EWG's survey of labels from 173 bottled waters purchased in 2010.

 

What’s In Your Bottled Water – Besides Water?

Pure, clean water.

That’s what the ads say. But what does the lab say?

When you shell out for bottled water, which costs up to 1,900 times more than tap water, you have a right to know what exactly is inside that pricey plastic bottle.

Most bottled makers don’t agree. They keep secret some or all the answers to these elementary questions:

  • Where does the water come from?

  • Is it purified? How?

  • Have tests found any contaminants?

comic - don't ask, don't swill

Among the ten best-selling brands, nine — Pepsi's Aquafina, Coca-Cola's Dasani, Crystal Geyser and six of seven Nestlé brands — don't answer at least one of those questions.

Only one — Nestlé's Pure Life Purified Water — discloses its specific geographic water source and treatment method on the label and offers an 800-number, website or mailing address where consumers can request a water quality test report.

The industry's refusal to tell consumers everything they deserve to know about their bottled water is surprising.

Since July 2009, when Environmental Working Group released its groundbreaking Bottled Water Scorecard, documenting the industry's failure to disclose contaminants and other crucial facts about their products, bottled water producers have been taking withering fire from consumer and environmental groups.

A new EWG survey of 173 unique bottled water products finds a few improvements – but still too many secrets and too much advertising hype. Overall, 18 percent of bottled waters fail to list the location of their source, and 32 percent disclose nothing about the treatment or purity of the water. Much of the marketing nonsense that drew ridicule last year can still be found on a number of labels.

EWG recommends that you drink filtered tap water. You'll save money, drink water that’s purer than tap water and help solve the global glut of plastic bottles.

We support stronger federal standards to enforce the consumer's right to know all about bottled water.

Until the federal Food and Drug Administration cracks down on water bottlers, use EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard to find brands that disclose the water's source location, treatment and quality and that use advanced treatment methods to remove a broad range of pollutants.

 

Update (Jan. 25, 2011)

California’s Public Health Department appears to interpret S.B. 220’s source-listing requirement narrowly in light of federal law. Although ambiguity remains with regard to that requirement – underscoring the need for more clarity in the current statute – EWG has updated its original “out-of-compliance” findings to reflect that interpretation. In light of that update, EWG also changed its letter grade for the following products: Alhambra Jr. Sport Crystal-Fresh Purified Water (F to D); Good Stuff by AMPM Purified Drinking Water (D to C); Ralphs Purified Drinking Water (F to D); Refreshe Purified Drinking Water (D to C); and Sunny Select Drinking Water (D to C).

 

Summary of Findings

Study authors: Nneka Leiba, MPH, Analyst; Sean Gray, MS, Senior Analyst; Jane Houlihan, MSCE, Sr VP for Research

Overview

The bottled water industry routinely fails to provide information to consumers about the water’s specific geographic source, purification methods and the results of purity testing, a new EWG investigation shows.

Overall, more than half of the 173 bottled water brands surveyed in 2010 flunked EWG's transparency test.

Many brands fill their labels with vague claims of a pristine source or perfect purity — but no real facts. If people are willing to pay up 1,900 times the cost of tap water in order to buy water in a plastic bottle, they deserve better than that1.

EWG's last label survey (2009) found that only two of 188 bottled water brands provided the three most basic facts about their water — source name and location, treatment and purity. Since then, the Government Accountability Office has taken the industry and the federal Food and Drug Administration to task for lax inspection and disclosure practices. During a heavily publicized Congressional hearing on the GAO and EWG reports, House subcommittee chairman Bart Stupak, D-Mich., declared, "Just because it comes in a bottle, we assume it's healthier, but it's not the case."

EWG’s 2010 survey shows that 18 percent of bottled water brands still fail to reveal their water's geographic source; 32 percent are mum on treatment methods and purity testing; and 13 percent publish "water quality" reports that lack any actual testing results.

More than half of the brands EWG surveyed either made no improvements in transparency — or revealed even less in 2010 than in 2009. Bottled water sales continue to be fueled by expensive marketing and misinformation, while many companies stubbornly hide the truth about what's in the bottle.

When it comes to transparency about bottled water, here are the best and the worst:

  • Best -- From 2009 to 2010, the number of brands getting top grades for transparency rose from just two all the way to… three — hardly better. These three – Gerber Pure Purified Water, Nestle Pure Life Purified Water, and Penta Ultra-Purified Water – earned the highest possible marks for labeling the location of their water source and treatment methods and posting online reports on purity. Even so, the water quality reports for all three are outdated, with lab tests dating to 2008.
  • Worst -- Six brands, including Whole Foods' Italian Still Mineral Water, sank to the bottom of the barrel. They provide consumers with none of the three basic facts about their water, either on labels or on company websites.

Water quality test resulta

Each "best on transparency" bottled water brand shows a specific geographic location of its water source and treatment method on the label and posts purity testing online. The "worst on transparency" bottled waters list no information on the water's source location, treatment or purity, online or on the label. These lists are drawn from EWG's survey of labels from 173 bottled waters purchased in 2010.

 

America's bottled water habit has consequences: every 27 hours Americans drink enough bottles of water to circle the equator with empty plastic containers.2

Bottled water companies enjoying this massive commercial success may suspect that their customers would turn away if they knew that most of them draw their product from municipal tap water (BMC 2010, Food and Water Watch 2010), or that the plastics used to make the bottles can be laced with chemical additives that leach into the water (EWG 2008). Perhaps that's why EWG's survey found:

  • Eleven companies disclosed less in 2010 than in 2009. Crystal Geyser, Sam's Choice and nine other companies or brands disclosed even less information in 2010 than in 2009, for one or more bottled waters they sell.[See all products disclosing less in 2010 than in 2009]
  • Twenty-nine brands have ignored California's new disclosure law. More than a quarter of the water bottles purchased in California did not list certain consumer information on the label or failed to provide a water quality report when contacted by EWG as are required under state law. These brands include Fiji Natural Artesian Water and Green Planet Pure Handcrafted Water.[read more]
  • Eight of the 10 top-selling domestic brands earned a D or F for transparency. Another earned an unimpressive C. These nine brands don't label the specific location of their water source and treatment method or provide contact information for consumers to get information on water purity. They include Pepsi's Aquafina brand, Coca-Cola's Dasani, Crystal Geyser and six of seven brands produced by Nestlé Waters NA. Of the 10 top domestic brands, only Nestlé's Pure Life Purified Water brand lists a specific water source and treatment method on the label and provides a water quality testing report upon request.

 

Three basic facts – source, treatment, purity – remain hidden

 

EWG supports efforts by states such as California, Massachusetts, and New Mexico to supplement federal law when it comes to requiring companies to disclose more consumer information about their bottled water products. The fact is, however, that secrecy remains common and is perfectly legal in many states. Among the bottled water labels surveyed by EWG:

 

arrow point 18 percent did not list the water's geographic source on label or website.

EWG's 2010 survey found that many companies choose not to disclose the location of their water source. Of 173 brands surveyed, 32 (18 percent), including Publix, Kroger and Harris Teeter store brands, do not provide this information on either their label or their website.[see all 32]

 

Of brands included in both EWG's 2009 and 2010 surveys, 18 did not label their water source location in either 2009 or 2010. They include Dasani Purified Water, Glaceau's Smartwater, Kroger Purified Drinking Water and 15 others.[see all 18]

 

arrow point 32 percent provide no information on water treatment.

Producers of 55 brands (32 percent), including Giant's Acadia Natural Spring Water and CVS' Gold Emblem Natural Spring Water, gave consumers no way to learn the purity of their water. These companies fail to disclose any information about their treatment methods or do not post a water quality report online. [see all 55]

 

Of brands surveyed by EWG in both 2009 and 2010, 30 failed to provide this information both years. They included Fiji, Evian, Trader Joe's and Nestlé Waters. Their customers may be swallowing municipal water bottled straight from the tap – or pumped from a well to a truck to a bottle – and not purified at all. [see all 30]

 

arrow point 13 percent provide "water quality" reports lacking actual test data.

Twenty-two bottled waters (13 percent) publish water quality reports that contain no testing results, including Safeway's Refreshe and Walmart's Great Value brands, among many others. [see all 22]

 

Is the industry telling you more in 2010? Barely.

How many brands offered more information on source, treatment, and purity?
(2010 vs. 2009)

pie chart showing transparency of labels

Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of bottled water labels and websites and personal communication with companies. Categories defined as follows — Better: labels surveyed were more transparent in 2010 than in 2009. Mixed: some new information was listed, but other data provided in 2009 were now missing. No progress: no change in transparency since 2009. Worse: some or all labels surveyed were less transparent than in 2009.

EWG compared labels from 2009 and 2010 for 72 brands to see whether companies were providing more basic information to their customers. We expected progress. After all, listing the site of their water source and treatment method on the label is a simple job. Posting a water quality report on a company website also presents few hurdles. And following last year's Congressional hearing, GAO report and tremendous pressure from consumer groups, you might expect even the most resistant companies to budge, at least a little.

The results are disappointing. Some brands disclosed even less information in 2010 than in 2009, and only a fraction were more open.

Overall, bottled water companies stack up as follows:

Getting worse

11 brands (15 percent) disclosed less in 2010 than in 2009 (click for "Getting worse" and "Some decline" lists).

Eleven companies disclosed less about their water in 2010 than in 2009, including Nursery Purified Water and Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water.

No progress

27 brands (38 percent) disclosed no more in 2010 than in 2009.

These brands might easily have listed the location of their water source, treatment methods and testing data, but instead continue to hide much of this information, just as they did last year.

Better

28 brands (39 percent) disclosed more in 2010 than in 2009 on some or all labels surveyed for each product (click for "Better" and "Some improvement" lists).

Brands providing more information about the specific geographic location of their source, treatment and purity in 2010 than in 2009 included Acqua Panna and Mountain Valley. Last year Nestlé Pure Life's label listed multiple possible water source locations; the 2010 labels named the specific location of the source. Vasa and San Pellegrino added information on labels for consumers wishing to get additional information on the water's quality.

 

Major brands obscure basic data about their products

 

Large and small brands alike withhold basic information about their products. Labels of nine of the 10 top-selling domestic brands do not identify their specific water source or treatment method or provide contact information for consumers seeking additional information on water quality. These big brands include Pepsi's Aquafina, Coca-Cola's Dasani, Crystal Geyser and six of seven brands produced by Nestlé Waters NA. Of the 10 top domestic brands, only Nestlé's Pure Life Purified Water lists a specific water source and treatment method on the label and provides a water quality testing report upon request. Here are some of the grades major brands earned on EWG’s scorecard:

  • Grade: DPepsi's Aquafina Purified Drinking Water The label says the water "originates from public water sources" but fails to name them. The water is treated with a process called "HydRO-7™" that is not explained on the label. Only three of the 10 Aquafina labels assessed list a phone number for consumers seeking more information on water quality. Even with the phone number, obtaining a water quality report may not be possible; a company representative told EWG that water quality testing information was "proprietary."
  • Grade CNestlé's Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water lists a number of California springs as possible sources for the products EWG assessed. The labels do not include any information on how the water is treated but do list a phone number and website for consumers seeking water quality information.
     
  • Grade: FCG Roxane's Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water lists a number of "CG Roxane Source[s]" for the water EWG obtained but offered no specific names of springs. The labels provide no information on treatment, and a third of them do not direct consumers how to get more information on water quality.
     
  • Grade: DCoca-Cola's Dasani Purified Water does not name its source's geographic site on the label, but notes that the water is treated by reverse osmosis. Six of the seven labels surveyed direct consumers to additional water quality information.
     
  • Grade: DNestlé's Deer Park Natural Spring Water lists a number of springs in Pennsylvania, Florida, Maine, Tennessee and Maryland as possible water sources on the labels EWG assessed. No treatment method is listed and none of the labels give consumers a contact to get information on water quality.
     
  • Grade: DNestlé's Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water's label lists two springs in Michigan as possible sources but fails to describe its treatment methods. None of the labels give consumers a contact to get information on water quality.
     
  • Grade: BNestlé Pure Life Purified Water's label indicates that the source is either "deep protected wells" in Florida, Michigan or California or the public water supplies of specified cities in Pennsylvania, Colorado or Florida. The water is treated either by reverse osmosis or distillation, and all the labels include contact information for consumers seeking additional information on water quality.
     
  • Grade: DNestlé's Ozarka Natural Spring Water label says the water is "a blend of Roher Spring, Henderson County, TX and Piney Wood Springs, Wood County, TX" but it does not list treatment methods or include contact information for requesting water quality reports.
     
  • Grade: DNestlé's Poland Spring Natural Spring Water's label lists a number of springs in Maine as possible sources but does not identify treatment methods or contacts for water quality information.
     
  • Grade: DNestlé's Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water's label lists four springs in Florida as possible sources but provides no information on whether or how the water is treated or contacts for obtaining water quality information.

Recommendations

EWG recommends that consumers drink filtered tap water. It saves money, it's purer than tap water and it helps shrink the global glut of discarded plastic bottles. When bottled water is the only option, EWG recommends brands with high transparency scores (clear labeling) and advanced treatment.

EWG supports stronger federal standards to ensure consumers right to know all about their bottled water — where it comes from, what's been done to purify it, if anything, and what trace pollutants lurk inside. Finally, EWG supports state initiatives, like California's SB 220, that helps to accomplish these goals.

Detailed findings for individual bottled waters surveyed

More than half of the 72 brands EWG surveyed either made no improvements in transparency — or revealed even less in 2010 than in 2009 (see "Getting worse," "Some decline" and "No progress" lists below).

GETTING WORSE: Bottled waters revealing less information in 2010 than in 2009
  STILL NEEDED
    Specific geographic source on label Purification on label Contact on label Recent WQR Online*
(Walgreens) Drinking Water Listed water treatment method on label in 2009 ("Reverse osmosis, micron filtered and ozonated"), but not in 2010.   red checkmark   red checkmark
Nursery Purified Water Listed multiple possible water sources ("Arrowhead Springs; Millcreek Township, PA/Diamond Spring; Clay Township, PA/ Ephrata Well; Ephrata Township, PA/West Earl Township Municipal Water Supply; Ephrata, PA") on 2009's label; on 2010 labels no geographic source was listed. red checkmark     red checkmark
Tim Hortons Natural Spring Water Labels from 2009 listed a specific water source ("Cedar Valley Springs"); only a vague source was listed in 2010 ("Hillsburgh, Erin, Ontario, Canada").   red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Winn-Dixie Spring Water The 2009 label listed a specific water source ("Silver Springs, Silver Springs, FL"); but not in 2010. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
SOME DECLINE: Bottled waters disclosing less information on some (not all) labels surveyed in 2010 compared to 2009
  STILL NEEDED
    Specific geographic source on label Purification on label Contact on label Recent WQR Online*
365 Everyday Value Spring Water One of the 3 labels lists no contact information for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed a phone number and email address for consumers. red checkmark     red checkmark
Aquafina Purified Drinking Water Two of the 5 labels list a phone number for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark     red checkmark
Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water In 2010, two of 5 labels list no contact information for consumers wanting more information on water quality. 2009's label listed a phone number and email address for consumers. red checkmark red checkmark   red checkmark
Dasani Purified Water In 2010, one of 4 labels lists no contact information for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed a phone number and website for consumers. red checkmark      
Market Pantry Purified Water In 2010, one of 3 labels lists no contact information for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed a phone number and website. red checkmark     red checkmark
Publix Spring Water Two of 3 labels list no geographic water source. Last year's label showed a specific water source instead ("Ginnie Spring, Gilchrist City, High Springs, FL").     red checkmark red checkmark
Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water In 2010, one of three labels lists no contact information for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed a phone number and website. red checkmark      
NO PROGRESS: Bottled waters making no improvements, disclosing the same amount of information in 2010 compared to 2009
  STILL NEEDED
    Specific geographic source on label Purification on label Contact on label Recent WQR Online*
Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark    
Deer Park Natural Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark     red checkmark
Deja Blue Purified Drinking Water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark red checkmark
Evamor Alkaline Artesian Water Beverage No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Evian Natural Spring Water No change from last year.   red checkmark    
Fiji Natural Artesian Water No change from last year.   red checkmark   red checkmark
Giant Acadia Natural Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
H2Om Natural Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark red checkmark
Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark  
Iceland Spring Natural [Icelandic] Spring Water No change from last year.     red checkmark red checkmark
Kroger Distilled Water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark red checkmark
Ozarka Natural Spring Water No change from last year.   red checkmark red checkmark  
Penta Ultra-Purified Water No change from last year.        
Poland Spring Natural Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark    
Publix Purified Water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark red checkmark
Refreshe Purified Drinking Water No change from last year. red checkmark     red checkmark
Refreshe Spring Water No change from last year.       red checkmark
Simply H2O by Berkley & Jensen Purified Water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark red checkmark
Sparkletts Crystal-Fresh Purified Water No change from last year. red checkmark      
Spring! Natural Spring Water No change from last year.     red checkmark  
Sunnyside Farms Purified water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark red checkmark
Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand Artesian Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark   red checkmark
Volvic Natural Spring Water No change from last year.   red checkmark   red checkmark
Voss Artesian Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Wegmans Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Winn-Dixie Purified Water No change from last year. red checkmark   red checkmark  
Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water No change from last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark  
BETTER: Bottled waters disclosing more information in 2010 than in 2009
  STILL NEEDED
    Specific geographic source on label Purification on label Contact on label Recent WQR Online*
American Falls Purified Drinking Water 2010's label includes purification method ("reverse osmosis"); 2009's label didn't. 2010's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark     red checkmark
Aquarius Spring! Natural Spring Water Company provides an undated water quality report with information on water's source and processing but it does not disclose the results of water testing. Last year no water quality report was provided.       red checkmark
Crystal Springs Natural Spring Water This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year's listed no contact information.   red checkmark    
EartH2O 100% Natural Spring Water Company provides an dated water quality report online. Last year no water quality report was provided.     red checkmark  
Eden Springs Artesian Water This year's label lists a phone number and email address for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year's listed no contact information.   red checkmark   red checkmark
Ethos Water Natural Spring Water One of 2 labels lists a specific water source ("Nature's Way Springs, White Haven, PA 18661"). Last year's label showed a vague water source instead. This year's labels include a phone number for consumers; last year's listed no contact information.   red checkmark   red checkmark
Gerolsteiner Natural Mineral Water This year's label lists a phone number and email address for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark red checkmark   red checkmark
Giant Eagle Purified Water This year's label lists water treatment method on label ("carbon filtration, reverse osmosis and ozonation"); last year's did not.     red checkmark red checkmark
Glaceau Smartwater This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark     red checkmark
Icelandic Glacial Natural Spring Water Company provides an dated water quality report online. Last year no water quality report was provided.   red checkmark red checkmark  
Kirkland Signature Premium Drinking Water Company provides an undated water quality report with information on water's source and processing but it does not disclose the results of water testing. Last year no water quality report was provided. red checkmark      
Kirkland Signature Spring Water Company provides an undated water quality report with information on water's source and processing but it does not disclose the results of water testing. Last year no water quality report was provided. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Naturally Preferred Pure Mountain Spring Water Lists specific water source ("Opal Springs, Culver, OR") on this year's label; last year no geographic water source was listed.     red checkmark red checkmark
Nestle Pure Life Purified Water Lists specific water source on label this year (eg., "Deep protected wells, Stanwood, MI"). Last year's label listed multiple possible sources.        
Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water This year's labels list a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information for consumers. This year one of two labels identifies a water source ("Source Perrier, Vergeze, France"); no geographic source was identified last year.   red checkmark    
R Everyday Purified Water This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year no contact information was listed. Company provides an undated water quality report with information on water's source and processing but it does not disclose the results of water testing. Last year no water quality report was provided. red checkmark      
Ralphs Purified Drinking Water This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year no contact information was listed. red checkmark     red checkmark
Roxane Mountain Spring Water This year's label lists a phone number and mailing address for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year no contact information was listed. red checkmark red checkmark   red checkmark
S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year no contact information was listed.   red checkmark    
Spring Reflections Natural Spring Water Lists vague water source ("Spring Source: Benton, Tennessee 37307") on this year's label; no geographic source was listed last year. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Vasa Natural Spring Water This year's label lists a phone number and mailing address for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year no contact information was listed.     red checkmark  
SOME IMPROVEMENT: Bottled waters disclosing more information on some (not all) labels surveyed in 2010 compared to 2009
  STILL NEEDED
    Specific geographic source on label Purification on label Contact on label Recent WQR Online*
(Walgreens) Spring Water Two of 3 labels list a specific water source (e.g., "Silver Springs, Silver Springs, FL"). Last year's label showed multiple possible sources instead. One of the 3 labels lists a phone number for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information.       red checkmark
Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water Three of the 4 labels list a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information.   red checkmark    
CVS Gold Emblem Purified Drinking Water This year, 1 of 2 labels lists a specific water source; last year's label listed no geographic water source. One of two labels include a phone number and email address for consumers; last year's label listed no contact information.       red checkmark
Fry's Purified Drinking Water This year, one of 2 labels lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information for consumers. red checkmark     red checkmark
Kroger Purified Drinking Water This year, one of 2 labels lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information for consumers. red checkmark     red checkmark
New Zealand Eternal Artesian Water This year, one of 2 labels lists a vague water source ("Bottled at Source: Eternal NZ Ltd, 6941 SH2, Paeroa, New Zealand"). No geographic water source was listed on last year's label. This year, one of two labels lists a phone number and email addres for consumers wanting more information on water quality; last year's listed no contact information. red checkmark red checkmark   red checkmark
Trader Joe's Electrolyte Enhanced Water One of 2 labels lists a vague water source ("municipal source") this year; no geographic source was listed on last year's label. red checkmark     red checkmark
MIXED RESULTS: Bottled waters disclosing more information in some areas, less in others, in 2010 compared to 2009
  STILL NEEDED
    Specific geographic source on label Purification on label Contact on label Recent WQR Online*
Archer Farms Natural Spring Water Listed specific water source ("Roaring Spring, Roaring Spring, PA") on last year's label, but this year's label lists vague water sources. This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark red checkmark   red checkmark
Crystal Lake Premium Spring Water Listed water treatment method on label last year ("Ozone"), but not this year. This year's label lists a vague water source ("Alpine Springs from the Catskill Mountains, Livingston Manor, NY 12758"); last year's did not include a source. red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark red checkmark
Great Value Spring Water Listed specific water source on label last year ("Hummel Springs, Liberty, IL"), but not this year. This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark     red checkmark
Mountain Valley Spring Water Listed water treatment method on label last year ("Ozonated"), but not this year. This year's label lists a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information. red checkmark red checkmark    
Niagara Purified Drinking Water Listed a phone number and website for consumers wanting more information on water quality on last year's label; this year no contact information was listed. Company provides an undated water quality report with information on water's source and processing but it does not disclose the results of water testing. Last year no water quality report was provided. red checkmark   red checkmark  
Pure American Spring Water Listed specific water source on label last year ("Big Spring, Bellefonte, PA"), but not this year. This year's labels list a phone number for consumers wanting more information on water quality. Last year's label listed no contact information for consumers. red checkmark     red checkmark

 

Bottled waters that offered no purification information on their labels in 2009 and 2010

  Product Grade
1 Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water C
2 Archer Farms Natural Spring Water F
3 Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water C
4 Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water F
5 Crystal Springs Natural Spring Water C
6 Deer Park Natural Spring Water D
7 Eden Springs Artesian Water F
8 Ethos Water Natural Spring Water F
9 Evamor Alkaline Artesian Water Beverage F
10 Evian Natural Spring Water C
11 Fiji Natural Artesian Water C
12 Gerolsteiner Natural Mineral Water F
13 Giant Acadia Natural Spring Water F
14 Ice Mountain Natural Spring Water D
15 Icelandic Glacial Natural Spring Water C
16 Kirkland Signature Spring Water D
17 New Zealand Eternal Artesian Water F
18 Ozarka Natural Spring Water D
19 Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water D
20 Poland Spring Natural Spring Water D
21 Roxane Mountain Spring Water F
22 S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water D
23 Spring Reflections Natural Spring Water F
24 Tim Hortons Natural Spring Water F
25 Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand Artesian Water F
26 Volvic Natural Spring Water D
27 Voss Artesian Water F
28 Wegmans Spring Water F
29 Winn-Dixie Spring Water F
30 Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water D

 

Bottled waters that offered no geographic source information on their labels in 2009 and 2010

  Product Grade
1 American Falls Purified Drinking Water D
2 Dasani Purified Water D
3 Deja Blue Purified Drinking Water F
4 Fry's Purified Drinking Water D
5 Glaceau Smartwater C
6 Kirkland Signature Premium Drinking Water D
7 Kroger Distilled Water F
8 Kroger Purified Drinking Water F
9 Market Pantry Purified Water F
10 Niagara Purified Drinking Water D
11 R Everyday Purified Water C
12 Ralphs Purified Drinking Water F
13 Refreshe Purified Drinking Water D
14 Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water C
15 Simply H2O by Berkley & Jensen Purified Water F
16 Sparkletts Crystal-Fresh Purified Water C
17 Sunnyside Farms Purified water F
18 Winn-Dixie Purified Water F

 

Bottled waters with no geographic source information on their labels or websites

  Product Grade
1 Alhambra Jr. Sport Crystal-Fresh Purified Water F
2 Big Y Natural Spring Water F
3 Cool Springs Purified Drinking Water F
4 Crystal Clear Bottled Water Purified Drinking Water C
5 Cumby's Spring Water F
6 CVS Gold Emblem Natural Spring Water F
7 CVS Gold Emblem Purified Drinking Water F
8 Deja Blue Purified Drinking Water F
9 Floravita 2000 Supra-Aqua Ultrapure Premium Water F
10 Fry's Purified Drinking Water F
11 GIVE Strength [to fight muscular disorders] Electrolyte Infused Water F
12 Harris Teeter Purified Water F
13 Kroger Distilled Water F
14 Kroger Purified Drinking Water F
15 Market Basket Natural Spring Water F
16 Market Pantry Purified Water F
17 New Zealand Wai Artesian Water F
18 Nursery Purified Water C
19 O Water Sport Electrolyte Enhanced Purified Drinking Water F
20 Publix Drinking Water F
21 Publix Spring Water F
22 Ralphs Purified Drinking Water F
23 Sahara Premium Drinking Water F
24 Simply H2O by Berkley & Jensen Purified Water F
25 Smart Sense Purified Water F
26 Sunnyside Farms Purified water F
27 The Natural Cafe Purified Drinking Water F
28 Trader Joe's Electrolyte Enhanced Water F
29 UNHCR Earth Water Demineralized Water F
30 Vintage Natural Spring Water F
31 Whole Foods Italian Still Mineral Water F
32 Winn-Dixie Purified Water F

 

Bottled waters with no treatment type disclosed and no water quality information

  Product Grade
1 (Stop & Shop) Acadia Natural Spring Water F
2 (Walgreens) Drinking Water F
3 Angel Fire Water Drinking Water F
4 Archer Farms Natural Spring Water F
5 Big Y Natural Spring Water F
6 Bristol Farms Drinking Water F
7 Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino Purified Drinking Water F
8 Ciao Acqua Naturale Natural Spring Water F
9 Crystal Lake Premium Spring Water F
10 Cumberland Farms Spring Water F
11 Cumby's Spring Water F
12 CVS Gold Emblem Natural Spring Water F
13 Eco Choice Natural Spring Water F
14 Eden Springs Artesian Water F
15 Ethos Water Natural Spring Water F
16 Evamor Alkaline Artesian Water Beverage F
17 Giant Acadia Natural Spring Water F
18 Give Hope [to women with breast cancer] Natural Spring Water F
19 GIVE Life [to children in need] Natural Spring Water F
20 GIVE Love [to protect our environment] Natural Spring Water F
21 Green Bottle Spring Water F
22 Leggera Natural Mineral Water F
23 Lissa Natural Mineral Water F
24 Market Basket Natural Spring Water F
25 Nature's Place All Natural Spring Water F
26 Nature's Pride Natural Spring Water F
27 Neuro Aqua Natural Spring Water F
28 Nirvana Natural Spring Water F
29 O Water Sport Electrolyte Enhanced Purified Drinking Water F
30 Project 7 Feed The Hungry Natural Spring Water F
31 Project 7 Heal The Sick Natural Spring Water F
32 Project 7 Help Those in Need Natural Spring Water F
33 Project 7 House the Homeless Natural Spring Water F
34 Pure Swiss Mineral Water F
35 Richfood Natural Spring Water F
36 Rienzi Pura Natural Mineral Water F
37 Roxane Mountain Spring Water F
38 Sahara Premium Drinking Water F
39 San Benedetto Premium Artesian Water F
40 Saratoga Natural Spring Water F
41 Shaw's Spring Water F
42 Spring Reflections Natural Spring Water F
43 Sunnyside Farms Spring water F
44 Tim Hortons Natural Spring Water F
45 Tops Spring Water F
46 Trader Joe's Natural Mountain Spring Water F
47 Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand Artesian Water F
48 Tulpehocken Mountain Spring Water F
49 Ty Nant Spring Water F
50 Vintage Natural Spring Water F
51 Wegmans Spring Water F
52 Whole Foods Italian Still Mineral Water F
53 Winn-Dixie Spring Water F
54 World Market Natural Spring Water F
55 Xtramart Natural Spring Water F

 

Bottled waters with a water quality report without any testing data

  Product Grade
1 7 Select Spring Water D
2 American Falls Purified Drinking Water D
3 Aquarius Spring! Natural Spring Water C
4 Athena Purified Water with Minerals Added F
5 Crystal Lake Spring Water C
6 Dasani Purified Water D
7 Famous Ramona Natural Mountain Spring Water D
8 Fry's Purified Drinking Water D
9 Good Stuff by AMPM Purified Drinking Water D
10 Great Value Distilled Water C
11 Great Value Drinking Water C
12 Great Value Purified Drinking Water C
13 Great Value Spring Water C
14 Kirkland Signature Premium Drinking Water D
15 Kirkland Signature Spring Water D
16 Niagara Purified Drinking Water D
17 R Everyday Purified Water C
18 Refreshe Purified Drinking Water D
19 Refreshe Spring Water C
20 Simplify Purified Water D
21 Spring! Natural Spring Water C
22 Sunny Select Drinking Water D

Footnotes.
1 A recent survey documented bottled water prices ranging from $0.89 to $8.26 per gallon (Food and Water Watch 2007). Retail prices vary widely depending on whether people are buying bottled water in bulk or individual bottles. Given this wide range in prices, EWG assumed a flat $1.00 per liter price per liter (or $3.79 per gallon), which is what most consumers would pay for a typical liter bottle of water bought from a convenience store. In comparison, EPA estimates that tap water costs consumers about $0.002 per gallon, on average, nationwide (EPA 2004).

2 Based on a typical 16.9 fluid ounce bottle, 8 inches in height; 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.

 

California Regulation

Bottled water companies flout California labeling law

In 2007, California passed a law (SB 220) designed to reverse the dearth of basic public data about the quality of bottled water. The law mandates that waters bottled after Jan. 1, 2009 and sold in California must label both the source of the water and two ways for consumers to contact the company for a water quality report.

Barely one-third of bottled
waters surveyed comply with
California's labeling law

Pie chart showing compliance with California labeling law Source: EWG research, including analysis of 96 bottled waters purchased in California, and personal communication with bottled water companies.

However, EWG's inspection of labels on 96 bottled waters purchased in California found that only 34 percent comply.

More than a quarter did not comply with the law, failing to include mandatory data on the label or failing to provide a water quality report upon request, as the law requires.

It is clear that many companies are ignoring the law and continuing to hide basic data from their customers. The shameful breakdown is as follows:

 

 

 

California's bottled water law

California's bottled water law, SB 220, championed by California Senator Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), was designed to provide consumers with "the same water quality 'right to know' protections and regulatory oversight... as those established for tap water."

The SB 220 Bill
The bill was passed and signed into law in 2007 over the opposition of the California Bottled Water Association and the International Bottled Water Association (State of California Legislative Counsel 2010) and went into effect on Jan. 1, 2009.

Link to SB 220:
Click Here

SB 220 amended sections of CaliforniaÕs Sherman Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Law dealing with bottled water.

Our Survey

EWG found that more than a quarter of bottled water brands surveyed fail to comply.

 

  • 30 percent of bottled water brands are out of compliance: More than a quarter of the brands EWG surveyed (29 of 96) do not comply with the law, failing to include required information on the label — such as a 1-800 number that consumers can call to get a water quality report — or failing to provide a water quality report when one was requested. These products all list bottling dates later than the law's effective date of Jan. 1, 2009 or were unable or unwilling to provide us with a water quality report when contacted after that date. Among them were products from the top two imported brands, Fiji and Perrier.

  • An additional 35 percent may be out of compliance: EWG suspects that an additional 34 brands are also flouting the law, but they don't show their bottling dates on their labels so we can't be sure. For 12 of these brands, at least one label we obtained failed to provide the information required under the California law, and listed an expiration date on or after Jan. 1, 2011. Based on a typical two-year shelf life, these products were likely bottled after the law took effect. For the other 22 brands, at least one bottle failed to provide the required information, but neither the expiration nor bottling date was given, making it impossible to know whether the water was bottled before or after the law's effective date.
  • Only 34 percent of bottled water brands are in compliance: Only 33 of 96 brands surveyed clearly complied with California's labeling law, with all labels and contact routes for water quality data providing the basic information required on source and purity. This is a generous number, since fifteen of these brands publish water quality reports that lack any actual water quality testing results. EWG suspects that companies doing so are taking advantage of vague language in the law's mandate for a water quality report.

     

These discouraging findings raise the question: What's in the bottle? Why is the industry reluctant to tell its customers what they're drinking?

EWG researchers expected to find wide compliance with the law in California and a ripple effect that would improve labels nationwide, since brands providing this information in one state could easily do so in others as well. What we found, however, came as a surprise. Many companies failed to list the mandatory information even in California.

Companies willing to ignore state law to keep information from their customers may have something to hide. Perhaps bottled water companies are banking on the state Attorney General's office turning a blind eye, focusing its limited resources on other issues. In the meantime, bottled water drinkers are left in the dark.

 

California brands are more likely to provide contact information on their labels than brands sold elsewhere but not much more likely to comply with other provisions in the law.

 

  Purchased outside of California Purchased in California
Labels disclosing water's geographic source 71% 61%
Labels listing contact information 32% 69%
Companies providing a water quality report 33% 41%
Companies providing a full water quality report
that includes test results
21% 23%

 

Details - The disappointing status of bottled waters relative to requirements of California's SB 200 labeling law

 

 

Twenty-nine of the 96 bottled waters EWG surveyed did not comply with key provisions of SB 220, failing to label the required information (and bearing bottling dates after Jan. 1, 2010), or failing to provide a water quality report as promised.

 

29 Products out of compliance with SB 220

Product Reason for non-compliance Bottling date
(Walgreens) Drinking Water Only one means of contacting company for a water report listed on label (a telephone number). 23-Aug-10
Alhambra Crystal-Fresh Purified Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 30-Jun-10
Aquafina Purified Drinking Water Label does not list all the required information; Additionally, company was unable to provide a water quality report in response to EWG's request in 2010. not listed
Archer Farms Natural Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Bristol Farms Drinking Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Cool Springs Purified Drinking Water Label does not list all the required information; Additionally, company was unable to provide a water quality report in response to EWG's request in 2010. not listed
Eden Springs Artesian Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Evamor Alkaline Artesian Water Beverage Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 30-Apr-10
Fiji Natural Artesian Water Neither of the California labels assessed list two means of contacting company for a water report. In both cases only a telephone number was listed. 3-Jun-10
Fry's Purified Drinking Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 20-Mar-10
Gerber Graduates LilÕ Water Purified Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Gerolsteiner Naturally Sparkling Mineral Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Green Planet Pure Handcrafted Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 14-May-10
h2O Natural Spring Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 08-May-09
Iceland Spring Natural Spring Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 23-Jul-09
Icelandic Glacial Natural Spring Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 3-May-10
Kroger Purified Drinking Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 31-Aug-10
Market Pantry Purified Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 7-May-10
Naya Canadian Natural Spring Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 22-Feb-10
Neuro Aqua Natural Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Perrier Sparkling Natural Mineral Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 06-Nov-09
Project 7 House the Homeless Natural Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Sam's Choice Purified Drinking Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 30-Aug-10
San Benedetto Premium Artesian Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 04-Aug-10
The Natural Cafe Purified Drinking Water Label does not list all the required information; Additionally, company was unable to provide a water quality report in response to EWG's request in 2010. not listed
Trader Joe's Electrolyte Enhanced Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Trader Joe's Natural Mountain Spring Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand Artesian Water Label lists all the required information but company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. not listed
Voss Artesian Water Contact information for obtaining a water report not listed on label. 12-May-10

 

Twelve of the 38 bottled waters we suspect to be out of compliance with California's labeling law, including products from the CVS brand, Gold Emblem, bear expiration dates later than Jan. 1, 2011; the 2-year shelf life typical for the industry places the bottling date after Jan. 1, 2009, indicating likely non-compliance.

12 Products suspected to be out of compliance with SB 220 - mandatory label information is missing, and their relatively recent expiration dates suggest they were bottled after the law's effective date.

Product Reason for non-compliance Expiration date
CVS Gold Emblem Natural Spring Water Only one means of contacting company for a water report listed on label (a telephone number). 29-Apr-12
CVS Gold Emblem Purified Drinking Water Only one means of contacting company for a water report listed on label (a telephone number). 30-Jul-12
Essentia Purified Water Company was unable to provide a water report via the means listed on the label. 31-May-12
GIVE Life [to children in need] Natural Spring Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 27-Apr-12
H2Om Natural Spring Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. Jan 03 11
Hawaii Water Bottled Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 12-May-11
Hawaiian Springs Young Natural Artesian Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 24-Feb-12
Lissa Natural Mineral Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 06-Mar-11
Sunnyside Farms Drinking water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 05-Sep-12
Sunnyside Farms Purified water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 17-Aug-12
Sunnyside Farms Spring water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 06-Sep-12
Ty Nant Spring Water Label does not include contact information for obtaining a water report. 18-Nov-11

 

For 22 of the 38 bottled waters we suspect to be out of compliance with California's labeling law, at least one bottle we assessed failed to provide information required under California's labeling law, but neither an expiration nor a bottling date was listed on these products, making it impossible to know if the water was bottled before or after the law's effective date.

22 products suspected to be out of compliance with California labeling law, but with no bottling date or expiration date, EWG was unable to verify status

Product
Alhambra Jr. Sport Crystal-Fresh Purified Water
Acqua Panna Natural Spring Water
Chukchansi Gold Resort and Casino Purified Drinking Water
Deja Blue Purified Drinking Water
Ethos Water Natural Spring Water
Floravita 2000 Supra-Aqua Ultrapure Premium Water
Give Hope [to women with breast cancer] Natural Spring Water
Glacia IceBox Pure Arctic Spring Water
Ice Age Premium Glacier Water
Leggera Natural Mineral Water
New Zealand Wai Artesian Water
O Water Sport Electrolyte Enhanced Purified Drinking Water
Pure American Spring Water
Pure Swiss Mineral Water
Ralphs Purified Drinking Water
Real Alkalized Water
Sahara Premium Drinking Water
Saratoga Natural Spring Water
UNHCR Earth Water Demineralized Water
Volvic Natural Spring Water
Waiwera Still Artesian Water
World Market Natural Spring Water

 

 

For only 33 of 96 bottled waters surveyed, all labels and contact routes for water quality data provided the information required under California's labeling law. Even this is a generous number since fifteen of these publish "water quality" reports that lack any actual testing results (noted with asterisk in table below). SB 220 is ambiguous on this point, requiring that companies provide a report upon request but lacking specificity on the obvious need for a water quality report to include information about test results.

California's precedent-setting disclosure law has paved the way for similar measures in other jurisdictions. EWG is advocating for stricter requirements. A bottled water company fully complying with California's law could earn as few as 3.1 out of 10 points in EWG's transparency rating system — a "D." To get a higher grade the company would have to also list its treatment method on the label, provide a recent water quality report that contains test results and publish online information on the water's geographic source, treatment methods and purity. These additions would boost a company's grade to a "B" in EWG's rating system and are measures EWG would like to see included in proposals from jurisdictions choosing to follow California's lead.

33 Products In Compliance with SB 220

Product
365 Everyday Value Spring Water
7 Select Spring Water*
Aquarius Spring! Natural Spring Water*
Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water
Calistoga Sparkling Mineral Water
Crystal Geyser Natural Alpine Spring Water
Crystal Lake Spring Water*
Dasani Purified Water*
Deluge Premium Spring Water
Evian Natural Spring Water
Famous Ramona Natural Mountain Spring Water*
Gerber Pure Purified Water
Glaceau Smartwater
Good Stuff by AMPM Purified Drinking Water*
Great Value Drinking Water*
Great Value Purified Drinking Water*
Great Value Spring Water*
Kirkland Signature Premium Drinking Water*
Mountain Valley Spring Water
Nestle Pure Life Purified Water
New Zealand Eternal Artesian Water
Niagara Purified Drinking Water*
Nursery Purified Water
O.N.E. One Natural Experience Natural Spring Water
Penta Ultra-Purified Water
re-source Natural Spring Water
Refreshe Purified Drinking Water*
Refreshe Spring Water*
Roxane Mountain Spring Water
S. Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water
Simplify Purified Water*
Sparkletts Crystal-Fresh Purified Water
Sunny Select Drinking Water*

* Indicates that company provides a water quality report as SB 220 requires, but it does not contain any water quality testing results.

SB 220 requires companies to label the name and contact information for the bottler or brand owner, the source of the bottled water, and a statement that informs consumers about how to access water quality information contained in the bottled water report. The statement must: (i) include the term "water quality and information" appropriately, while informing customers about methods of gaining access to the full bottled water report; and (ii) provide a telephone number, where information can be requested from the bottled water company and one other means of contact for the bottled water company, including, but not limited to, a mailing address, e-mail address, or the bottled water company's Web site.

 

Shelf of shame

Environmental Working Group's research team collected labels from 173 bottled water brands and called dozens of bottled water companies to find out which ones are willing to tell customers what's in their bottles. The brands below earned a spot on EWG's Shelf of Shame for hiding data some of their competitors freely shared.

 

Aquafina

 

Aquafina Purified Drinking Water (Pepsi) - Our water quality tests are not for the public. The label includes this helpful note: "Product Questions? call 1-800-432-2632." But the Aquafina representative who answered EWG's call was less than helpful, saying that the water quality information is "proprietary" and "not for the public." (PepsiCo, Inc., Personal Communications, Aug. 27, 2010).

 

Gerber Graduates

 

Gerber Graduates Lil’ Water Purified Water - Please tell us what's in the water we sell. The label says: "For questions or a report on water quality and information, contact 1-800-4-GERBER or GERBER.com." But when EWG called that 1-800 number, the Gerber representative said she didn't know whether a water quality report was available. She said she would pass our question on to the "help desk" and they'd call us back (Gerber, Personal Communication, Aug. 27, 2010). They didn't. EWG called them back on Nov. 30, 2010. This time, the representative who answered said he did not know what a water quality report was or what it would say. He called back the same day, saying that we had misread the label. Gerber, in fact, has no water quality report. Instead, the phrase on the label, "For... a report on water quality," means that consumers should call the company to report any issues with the water's quality.

 

Oregon Rain

 

Oregon Rain Natural Virgin Water - Our clouds avoid populated areas. The label tells an incredible — really — story: "100% rainwater. Over the Pacific Ocean, where fresh, cold air from the North Pole meets warm air from the equator, clouds dripping with naturally clean, pure water are produced. These clouds travel from the ocean, avoiding populated areas and arrive over the Willamette Valley. There on a specialized farm, Oregon Rain captures the water, passes it through a one-third micron filter and ozonates it in the bottle. The result is truly Heaven in a Glass."
Market Pantry

Market Pantry Purified Water (Target) - Our bottle says what? Really? The label says, "For a report on water quality and information, contact: Guest services 1-800-316-6151 or Target.com." EWG's call to that 1-800 number was answered by a perplexed company representative. He said that he didn't know that Market Pantry's bottled water labels directed consumers to this number and did not have a water quality report (Target Corp., Personal Communication, July 16, 2010). EWG was unable to locate a water quality report on the website indicated on the label (www.target.com).

 

Naya

 

Naya Canadian Natural Spring Water - We'll call you back. Or not. Consumers find this note on the label: "For inquiries or a report on bottled water quality & information: 1-888-456-NAYA www.naya.com." The representative who answered EWG's call did not have a copy of a water quality report and did not know where it might be posted on the company website. He assured EWG that someone would call back with more information (Naya Waters Inc., Personal Communication, Aug. 27, 2010). No one returned our call. We had better luck on our follow-up call on Nov. 30, 2010, when the company representative promised to mail a water quality report to our office. We're waiting, we're waiting...

 

Bristol Farms

 

Bristol Farms Drinking Water - Water quality report? Never heard of it. The label says, "For information relating to water quality including a bottled water report, contact Chameleon Beverage Co. 800-989-2028 [email protected]" But the representative who answered EWG's call seemed confused by our request for a water quality report. He had "never heard this request before." He said the company does several tests daily on its water and therefore has many, many test results. He offered to schedule a tour so that EWG could see the bottling process but said he was unable to provide an annual water quality report (Bristol Farms, Personal Communications, Aug. 27, 2010).

 

Archer Farms Natural Spring Water

 

Archer Farms Natural Spring Water (Target). - Target's wild online goose chase. The label on this Target brand says: "For a report on water quality and information, contact Guest Services 1-800-316-6151 or Target.com." EWG could not find an Archer Farms water quality report on that website. A Target representative admitted that the report was "not currently set up on target.com" (Target Corporation, Personal Communication, July 17, 2010).

 

Great Value Great Value

 

Great Value Spring Water and Great Value Purified Drinking Water (Walmart). - What water quality report? When EWG called the phone number on the label, the company representative said she was not aware of any water quality report she could send to us (Walmart Stores Inc., Personal Communications, July 15, 2010). We called again on Nov. 30, 2010. The Walmart representative again said she knew nothing about a water quality report but promised that the manufacturer would call us directly within a few business days. On December 14th we finally received an email from the Magnetic Springs Water Company with the promised water quality report, five months after our first request.

 

Volvic SpringRalphsNeuro AquaKroger

 

Bottled waters from Kroger, Neuro Aqua, Ralphs and Volvic - Teasing customers with promises of online information that doesn't exist. Each of these products promises an online water quality report, but EWG researchers found none:

  • Kroger Purified Drinking Water. (www.kroger.com)
  • Neuro Aqua Natural Spring Water. (www.drinkneuro.com)
  • Ralphs Purified Drinking Water. (www.interamericanproducts.com)
  • Volvic Natural Spring Water. (www.volvic-na.com)

 

Select 7

 

7 Select Spring Water (7-11) - We'll call you back. But not any time soon. 7-11's bottled spring water label includes this note: "For more information and to obtain additional consumer information relating to water quality including a bottled water report, go to www.niagarawater.com or contact Niagara at (877)ITS-PURE." EWG called the number, asked for the bottled water report and was told that the request needed to be handled by a different department that would call us back (Advanced H2O LLC, Personal Communications, Aug. 27, 2010). The promised return call never came. EWG called again on Nov. 30, 2010. This time the representative knew more and directed us to an online water quality report.

 

Essentia

 

Essentia Purified Water - Water quality report coming soon - we promise. The label directs consumers to the company website (www.essentiawater.com) to get water quality information. But when you go there, the company just promises it in the future: "Essentia will post a quarterly lab analysis prepared by an independent laboratory for your review and reassurance... PDF Download [of lab analysis] to come" (Essentia, 2010). This lack of public data doesn't stop the brand from boasting of health benefits: "Doctor recommended to protect, improve and enhance the quality of your health... Essentia is a prescription for life."

Alhambra Crystal Fresh

Alhambra Crystal-Fresh Purified Water - Looking for our website? It's not the one on the label. This brand's label lists the website www.alhambra.com for information on water quality. But this URL links to a holding web page, not to the company's website. (EWG found the real company website at www.alhambrawater.com, and it included a water quality report.)

 

Trader Joes

 

Trader Joe's Pure New Zealand Artesian Water - You wanted an email address that works?! The label gives consumers an email address — [email protected] — to get information on water quality. But EWG's emails to this address were returned with a delivery failure notification.

 

Alhambra Sport

 

Alhambra Jr. Sport Crystal-Fresh Purified Water - Looking for water quality information? It's "coming soon." The label directs consumers to a website (www.jrsportwater.com) for water quality information. But the website has only two things: a picture of the Jr. Sport products and a “coming soon” banner.

 

Fiji

 

Fiji Natural Artesian Water - Purified by equatorial winds (and mechanical equipment). On its website, Fiji claims that its water comes from rain "purified by equatorial winds after traveling thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean. Winds that carry acid rain and pollutants to other parts of the planet just don't come [their] way" (Fiji, 2010). In its water quality report the company describes a far different process relying on mechanical filtering — not winds and ecosystems — and divulges that the water is "filtered to remove any particulate matter, micron-filtered to remove microbiological particles," adding that "ultra violet light is applied to insure disinfection."

 

Iceland Pure
Iceland Spring

 

Iceland Pure Spring Water and Iceland Spring Natural Spring Water - The secret to long life? Good luck finding out. The label says "Icelanders live longer than any other nationality; we believe their secret to long life is their water." But the company keeps its water quality tests secret, with no online report and no contact information on the label.

 

H2O

 

H2Om Natural Spring Water - No special potions (or water quality report), just positive thinking. The website says: "H2Om has everything to do with what you believe in. After all, that’s what makes it interactive, your thoughts, while you drink it. We don't add special potions, or bless the water before we deliver it to you, once you buy H2Om at the store, you let the label inspire you as you put your own belief and personal energy into it. At that moment two things happen, as you create your own personal intention while you drink in the delicious spring water, you are living in the "now", and you are naturally in a grateful state of being. You’ve created an energetic interaction with the element that sustains your life. Your body is completely receptive... And logically, as you absorb the water, you carry that "intent" with you throughout your day. H2Om is Positive Drinking with Positive Thinking" (H2Om, 2010). The company does not use advanced purification methods and does not provide an online water quality report.


Angel Water

Angel Fire Water Drinking Water - Purest mountain source, trust us. The label says, "What you hold in your hand is water that is bottled from the purest mountain source," but it does not disclose how or if the water is tested or purified and does not say how to get water quality information. The company does not publish a water quality report on its website.

 

How much do we drink?

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.

 

Tips for safe drinking water

Drink plenty of water but avoid bottled water when you can. It pollutes the environment and is often nothing more than tap water. When you must use bottled water, choose brands with high EWG transparency scores (clear labeling) and advanced treatment. Read EWG researchers’ top tips to learn more about how to stay hydrated while reducing your exposure to common drinking water pollutants.

Tap water — learn what's in it.

Tap water suppliers publish all their water quality tests. Bottled water companies don’t. Read your annual tap water quality report. Look up your city’s water in EWG’s National Tap Water Atlas (www.ewg.org/tapwater). (Private well? Get it tested.)

Filtered tap water — drink it, cook with it.

  • Choose a filter certified to remove contaminants found in your water: www.ewg.org/tap-water/getawaterfilter. Effectiveness varies — read the fine print.
     
  • Carbon filters (pitcher or tap-mounted) are affordable and reduce many common water contaminants, such as lead and byproducts of the disinfection process used to treat municipal tap water.
     
  • If you can afford it, install a reverse osmosis filter to remove contaminants that carbon filters can’t eliminate, such as chromium-6, arsenic and perchlorate (rocket fuel).
     

View EWG's guide to Safe Drinking Water

Filters — change them.

Change your water filters on time. Old filters aren’t safe – they harbor bacteria and let contaminants through.

Bottled water — drink filtered tap water instead.

You can read the bottle label and still not know whether the water is pure or just processed tap water. EWG found 38 contaminants in 10 popular brands.

On the go — carry water in safe containers.

Hard plastic bottles (#7 plastic) can leach a harmful plastics chemical called bisphenol-A (BPA) into water. Carry stainless steel or other BPA-free bottles. Don’t reuse bottled water bottles. The plastic can harbor bacteria and break down to release plastics chemicals.

While pregnant — stay hydrated with safe water.

It’s especially important for women to drink plenty of water during pregnancy. Follow all the tips above and take your doctor’s advice on how much to drink.

For infants — use safe water for formula.

Use filtered tap water for your baby’s formula. If your water is not fluoridated, you can use a carbon filter. If it is, use a reverse osmosis filter to remove the fluoride, because fluoridated water can damage an infant’s developing teeth. If you choose bottled water for your infant, make sure it’s fluoride-free. Learn more at www.ewg.org/babysafe.

Breathe easy — use a whole house water filter.

For extra protection, a whole house carbon filter will remove contaminants from steamy vapors you and your family inhale while showering and washing dishes. Effectiveness varies widely – call the manufacturer for details.

Methodology: 

Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed the labels and websites of 173 bottled water products to determine if the industry has heeded repeated calls to disclose basic facts about their products - the water's specific geographic source, treatment methods and purity. We also investigated the industry’s compliance with California’s labeling disclosure law, SB 220. Details on label acquisition and analysis as well as the scoring matrix used to rate bottled waters for transparency are provided below.

Label Acquisition

In March 2010, EWG invited the public via common social media outlets to submit the labels of bottled waters they had purchased. Between March and September 2010 we received 274 unique labels for 173 different bottled water products. Many products bore multiple unique labels; we found that label content varies state-to-state and even within a state and can vary with the bottle size. Overall, the products we assessed were purchased in 29 states, led by California with 111 labels from 96 products.

EWG researchers constructed a database containing label details regarding water source, treatment and testing. We also recorded the location and date of product's purchase, as well as any production and/or expiration dates that were available. We recorded similar source, treatment and testing data available from company websites.

EWG researchers analyzed the information in the database and scored each product based on: 1) transparency as indicated by disclosure of the water's source location, purification and testing information on both the product label and the company website, 2) the efficacy of purification methods used to treat the water and, for waters purchased in California, 3) the degree of compliance with SB 220.

Scoring system — EWG's method of rating bottled water

EWG's rating system considers three components: transparency (completeness of information on the label and website about water's geographic source, treatment and purity); efficacy of purification methods used to treat the water; the product's compliance with California's bottled water disclosure law, SB 220. Each of these components is described below.

The tables below detail the factors EWG used to rate the transparency bottled waters.

Transparency scores

 
Label Details
Website Details

Water Source

Precise geographic source name and location
2 pts
1 pt

Multiple, specific source names and locations listed as possibilities
1.5 pts
0.75 pt

Partial or vague1
1 pt
0.5 pts

Product name is the only indicator of source
0.5 pts
0.2 pts

None listed
0 pts
0 pts

No website
---
0 pts

Purification

Treatments named/Lack of treatment disclosed
2 pts
1 pt

Partial or vague2
1 pt
0.5 pts

Product name is the only indicator of purification
0.5 pts
0.2 pts

None listed
0 pts
0 pts

No website
---
0 pts

Testing Conducted

Statement on label with information about obtaining a water quality report
1 pt
---

Water Quality Report available
---
0.5 pts

Report lists full SDWA* contaminant list
---
0.5 pts

Report lists partial SDWA* contaminant list
---
0.2 pts

Report includes complete documentation of all chemicals tested for
---
0.5 pts

Report only includes partial documentation of all chemicals tested for
---
0.2 pts

Report represents the most current water quality data
---
0.5 pts

Report is either a "typical" analysis or is undated
---
0.2 pts

  • 1Partial or vague source information refers to products that do not disclose specific geographic source names and locations. Examples include phrases such as "deep within Michigan's countryside" and "a deep pristine crystalline rock aquifer".
  • 2Partial or vague purification information refers to products that do not make clear the treatment processes used, or the lack thereof. An example is the phrase "state of the art ultra-purification system" with no further clarification.
  • *SDWA- Safe Drinking Water Act: "The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans' drinking water. Under SDWA, EPA sets standards for drinking water quality" (EPA, 2009).

We assigned a transparency score to each bottled water product by summing the individual scoring components listed above. The transparency score was adjusted by scores that considered purification efficacy (subtracting points where advanced treatment processes, such as reverse osmosis and distillation, were not applied) and by scores considering compliance with SB 220, to calculate each product's final score.

Scores for compliance with SB 220

EWG assessed a product's compliance with SB 220 based on two factors: 1) compliance with the law's labeling requirements; and 2) whether or not we were able to acquire a water quality report from the contacts listed on the product label.

Consumer Confidence Report Compliance

WQRs Available from Both Contacts
0 pt

WQRs Available from Only One Contact
-0.25 pt

WQRs Not Available from Any of the Listed Contacts
-0.5 pt

Label Compliance

Fully Labeled
0 pts

Partially Labeled
-0.25 pts

Label Included No Source and No Contacts
-0.5 pt

Scores for efficacy of purification method

EWG rated the efficacy of purification techniques using the scheme detailed below. Waters treated with advanced purification techniques received higher scores in our rating system.

Advanced Treatment Used
0 pts

Basic Treatment Used
-0.5 pts

No Treatment Used/None Listed
-1 pt

Letter grade key

We represented the overall score as a letter grade based on the key below.

A
8.6 - 10.0

B
6.9 - 8.5

C
5.0 - 6.8

D
2.9 - 4.9

F
1.0 - 2.8

 

References

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2010. Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Available: http://water.epa.gov/lawsregs/rulesregs/sdwa/index.cfm [accessed October 5 2010].

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].

Essentia Water Inc. 2010. Essentia: Lab Analysis. Available: www.essentiawater.com/resources_lab_analysis.html [accessed July 9, 2010].

EPA (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency). 2004. Drinking Water Costs & Federal Funding. Office of Water. EPA 816-F-04-038. Available: www.epa.gov/OGWDW/sdwa/30th/factsheets/pdfs/fs_30ann_dwsrf_web.pdf [accessed October 2 2008].

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2008. Bottled Water Quality Investigation: 10 Major Brands, 38 Pollutants. Available: https://www.ewg.org/research/bottled-water-quality-investigation [accessed November 12 2010].

EWG (Environmental Working Group). 2009. EWG's Bottled Water Scorecard. Available: https://www.ewg.org/research/ewg-bottled-water-scorecard-2011 [accessed October 4 2010].

Essentia Water Inc. 2010. Essentia: Lab Analysis. Available: www.essentiawater.com/resources_lab_analysis.html [accessed July 9, 2010].

Fiji. 2010. Fiji Natural Artesian Water: What Ecosystem is your Water from? Available: http://fijiwater.com/Ecosystem.aspx [accessed September 22, 2010].

Food and Water Watch. 2007. Take Back the Tap. Available: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/pubs/reports/take-back-the-tap [accessed October 3 2008].

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.

H2Om. 2010. H2Om: About Our Water. Available: http://www.h2omwater.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=46&Itemid=53 [accessed November 29, 2010].

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.

State of California Legislative Counsel 2010. Analysis SB 220. Available: http://leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0201-0250/sb_220_cfa_20070911_180652_sen_floor.html [accessed September 20, 2010].

Key Issues: