Pepsi tries a little truth on Aquafina bottles.

The popularity of bottle water just boggles my mind when you consider that it costs more than gasoline at the moment and most folks can get the equivalent from the tap in their kitchen sink. The fact that a lot of devotees seem to be under the impression that bottled water is somehow superior to their tap water probably has something to do with it, but the truth is that at least two brands — Pepsi’s Aquafina and Coca-Cola’s Dasani — are little more than tap water taken from the same public water sources as your household tap. Now, after a bit of hassling from various watchdog groups, the folks at Pepsi are going to label bottles of Aquafina with the source of the water:

According to Corporate Accountability International, a U.S. watchdog group, the world’s No. 2 beverage company will include the words “Public Water Source” on Aquafina labels.

“If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it’s a reasonable thing to do,” said Michelle Naughton, a Pepsi-Cola North America spokeswoman.

At the very least Pepsi can now truthfully say, “We TOLD them it’s just tap water and yet they continue to buy it! Who are we to deny them their right to spend way more than they need to for water?”

What’s interesting to me is the slowly growing backlash against bottled water. The backlash isn’t so much because folks are wasting money as much as it is because the amount of waste in the form of plastic bottles in landfills and the energy and resources to make said bottles and transport said water. Several cities are already taking steps to discourage bottled water:

San Francisco’s mayor banned city employees from using city funds to buy bottled water when tap water is available. Ann Arbor, Michigan passed a resolution banning commercially bottled water at city events and Salt Lake City, Utah asked department heads to eliminate bottled water.

Critics charge the bottled water industry adds plastic to landfills, uses too much energy by producing and shipping bottles across the world and undermines confidence in the safety and cleanliness of public water supplies, all while much of the world’s population is without access to clean water.

Alas, it’s doubtful even telling people it’s just plain old tap water isn’t likely to put much of a dent in sales:

“Consumers have an affection for bottled water. It’s not an issue of taste or health, it’s about convenience,” the newsletter’s publisher, John Sicher, said. “Try walking up (New York City’s) Third Avenue on a hot day and getting a glass of tap water.”

But industry observers said such opposition is unlikely to drain U.S. sales of bottled water, which reached 2.6 billion cases in 2006, according to Beverage Digest. The industry newsletter estimated that U.S. consumers spent about $15 billion on bottled water last year.

Dammmnnnnn! $15 billion selling people plain old tap water. I’m definitely in the wrong business.

I can certainly see where convenience may play a role in sales of bottled water, I’ve stopped and bought a bottle during more than one road trip (though I usually prefer diet pop), and I can also see an argument for bottled water in homes without access to a municipal water system, but I have to shake my head at people who buy whole cases of bottled water when they have perfectly decent tap water in their homes. Seems a little silly to me, but it’s not my money.

29 thoughts on “Pepsi tries a little truth on Aquafina bottles.

  1. There are still ‘devotees’ of bottled water?

    Though recently I did work in an old building in which one would not want to drink the water.  I just brought in a bottle of tap water in my shoulder bag each day.

    Now I work in a lovely new building and the tap water is fine.

  2. Here tap water legally has to be treated against bacteria, but bottled water has more lenient rules
    Bottled has a shelf life of several years so something that looks a couple of years to go has probably sat on a shelf absorbing degraded plastic from it’s bottle

    Also tap water has flavour and nutrition from it’s mineral content (calcium, flourine, etc) – some added deliberately for health

  3. I daresay that most people don’t particular care for the “flavour” of tap water.

    That said, there are plenty of ways to filter or otherwise treat it at home (or the office) short of buying little bottles of water.

  4. Some years ago we had a severe drought.  My town of Normal, Illinois continued to have sparkling clear, refreshing water while Bloomington next door had foul-smelling water with a warning that it contained too much nitrates for pregnant women to consume.

    This was due to the fact that Normal gets its water from a fossil aquifer, while Bloomington gets its water from two surface lakes (whose shorelines had each receded over 100m).

    Both towns have great water today but people in Bloomington still drink more bottled water than people in Normal.

  5. The only difference I can tell in my good old American municipal tap water (which is legally required to be treated for bacteria here too) is the mild chlorine flavor.  Compared to the 30% sulfur I had in one house I lived in with a well (ok, it wasn’t 30%, but it seemed that bad), tap water is freakin’ nectar from the gods.  I think if people had to drink a cup of that crap (I bought bottled water when I lived there), they’d jump for joy at drinking municipal tap water, or even water from a normal well.

  6. I occasionally buy bottled water for convenience reasons if I’m going to be doing a lot of walking outside, as a 500 millilitre bottle easily fits in a pants pocket.  I buy Shoppers Drug Mart’s Life Brand because its the cheapest.  (Despite the name SDM sells a lot more than prescriptions, including a lot of food.)  And Saskatchewan has a very high rate of bottle recycling, so hopefully lots of the bottles don’t end up in landfills.  I know mine don’t, as I appreciate the 10 or 15 bucks I make when I recycle them.

  7. Out here in California you see more plastic water bottles than soda or anything else.  Mostly unnecessary, of course, but we do have more water problems than a lot of places in the U.S.

    The town I grew up in is almost dead center of the southern San Joaquin Valley.  When I was growing up we had clear, great tasting water from groundwater sources and river runoff.  Just a few miles away, however, the huge amount of agricultural runoff was taking a toll, and the water got cloudy, sulphur smelling, and was eventually designated unsafe to drink in the rural areas.  By the time I left town, the seepage and runoff was starting to affect every part of the valley, and most people are now buying their own filters or paying the Arrowhead delivery man.
    I now live on the coast, and we get most of our water from lakes-NASTY!  The lakes themselves are pretty clean, totally safe to swin in, and pleasant smelling (for water to fish from) but the end product that is our tap water is not too great.  The city sends out a water quality report once a year and we are always on the borderline for several contaminants.  It tastes none too great, and because it is so heavily treated there is always a chlorine flavor.  In my building particularly there is sometimes a yellowish color to the water; it seems particular to my part of town.
    We have come up with a better solution than bottled water, though.  Almost every grocery and convenience store has a filtered water dispenser out front, and they are generally well maintained and clean.  At $.25 per gallon or 5 gallons for $1, it is significantly cheaper than bottled water from the store or delivered, and just as high a quality.  And all you have to buy(other than the water) is one five-gallon bottle.  When I make iced tea from the tap water, it comes out looking like watered down Yoo-Hoo and tastes like shit.  When the tea sits for a bit it actually forms a skin on top-NASTY!  When I use the same tap water filtered, it tastes great, and comes out translucent reddish brown (as it should) and tastes like TEA!

    Sorry for the prodigious post, but it really is a different issue depending on where you live. That said, I agree with Les almost completely-there are obviously better solutions than pumping out billions of plastic bottles and selling a dubious product for many times over it’s worth.

  8. I grew up in Southern California, which had Colorado River water—quite unpleasant.  We had Sparketts at home, and eventually a filter on the tap.

    When I moved to the Denver area, I was astonished by how much more palatable the tap water was.  Shortly after arriving, I was at a home show, and a bottled water guy offered me a drink, then observed how much better it was than what came out of the tap.  I, too, corrected him that it was relative.

    We have a filter on our fridge, for clean, cold water.  At the office—well, I drink coffee.  grin

  9. When Coke tried to sell Dasani here a few years ago there was a backlash, and it was taken off the shelves after only a few weeks one the fact that it was just treated tap water came to light.  It didn’t help their case it was being treated near Peckham in London, allowing parallels to be drawn with the episode of ‘only fools and horses’ where eternal spiv Del Boy bottles tapwater in his council flat after falsifing the results of ‘Peckham Spring’.

    If you buy bottled water in Europe/UK you expect something like Evian or Perrier.  This ISNT Dasani or Aquafina- it is bottled at source without treatment, and is ‘pure water’. Also as it has taken thousands of years to get through the aquifer it isn’t contaminated by pollution.

    When the Dasani thing blew up over here the national news interviewed a guy who ran a small mineral water bottling outfit. He was bemoaning that the lax labelling allowed the filtered tapwater to be confused with that which he was taking direct from the natural spring.

  10. Hum…My wife and I are full time ( Truck Drivers ). We literally live on a Truck.  I wonder how we could get by without bottled water?
    My favorites are Ozarka and Smart Water, The Smart Water is the best, but not always available. It is the only water that leaves absolutely no after taste.

  11. The only difference I can tell in my good old American municipal tap water (which is legally required to be treated for bacteria here too) is the mild chlorine flavor.

    If you want to get rid of that taste fill a water jug with an open lid and place it in the fridge. It only takes about 20 minutes or so for the chlorine to dissipate.

    Hum…My wife and I are full time ( Truck Drivers ). We literally live on a Truck.  I wonder how we could get by without bottled water?

    That is about the only good reason I have heard to buy the stuff.
    Has anyone seen the the Penn and Teller show Bullshit? They do a episode on bottled water.

  12. I grew up in the SF Bay Area, and the tap water, from Hetch Hetchy reservoir, was great.  Now every time I go back, it seems there’s more chlorine in the water.

    Here in Vienna the water is wonderful, and has no chlorine (as far as I know).  But it’s only a matter of time before good water will become scarcer even here, with global warming.  Last week it got up to 40 C (103 F) in Vienna, an all-time record.

  13. You can have a similar argument with prostitution. Just because its free doesn’t mean it can’t be sold. As long as there are buyers and sellers there will always be a market.

  14. I used to drink a lot of bottled water, but I switched to green tea for a drink in the car or at work.  Our water out of the tap is great tasting and no after taste.  The only time I ave a problem with it is after a major chlorine dump.  But my mom’s water is rusty; quite literally rust flakes.  She needs a new well dug.  I put a filter on her faucet and she drinks bottled water.  She needs the bottled water.  So I’m for bottled water if traveling.  I can see how people buy a large amount at a time because who knows when you may need it.

  15. You can get “bottled” (filtered tap) water in 2.5 gallon containers and probably bigger, very cheap at your local soulless superstore.  This you could use to refill smaller bottles at significant savings if your local water has problems.

    It even says on the label that it’s municipal water, which has received additional filtering and minerals added.  I’ve had it before and it tasted at least as good as the ones that say they’re “from pristine springs up in the snowy mountains” or whatever.

  16. TAFKA Buzz

    Well, I can see that nobody reads my comments

    Didn’t Mommy and Daddy show you enough attention when you were a Child ?

  17. Didn’t Mommy and Daddy show you enough attention when you were a Child ?

    Well, actually…Anyway, I was complaining about Webs not noticing me already mentioning the Penn and Teller Bullshit episode, but it looks like I was in error.  I was going to mention it, but I didn’t post it.  I now begin to suspect that I was in an alternate reality or something.  Maybe I should lay off the drugs.  I formally apologize to the string and everyone for my temporary insanity.

  18. You had me worry cause that’s the kind of thing I would normally do, repost something that was already written.

    I now begin to suspect that I was in an alternate reality or something.  Maybe I should lay off the drugs.  I formally apologize to the string and everyone for my temporary insanity.

    No worries.  I’ve done the same thing a few times too. tongue wink

  19. I understand that to many “Tap Water” may not be any diffrent. But in tampa, st pete, clearwater, the city water has to go through the draconian plumbing of your apartment complex and tastse awfull and is usually far more treated with chlorine or some bleachy tasting stuff.

    I don’t trust the plumbing in my apartment, yeah its probly psychological. When the water does taste different like a bar of iron soaked in bleach your not going to drink it. I would imagine that before those companies bottle it it gets filtered or “de-chemicalized”. It also doesn’t sit in old 1950’s plumbing acquiring the taste of brass and copper.

  20. If it is acquiring the taste of brass and copper, then its pH is wrong and it is also acquiring lead from the 1950’s solder used in the copper plumbing.  The Water dept isn’t doing its jZob!

    Another relatively cheap alternative to bottled water for a single location is to get a water cooler and subscribe to a delivery service.  Well worth it when the tap is no good for whatever reason.

  21. When I lived in the Phoenix area, tap water was undrinkable—and expensive. Filtering didn’t do much to get rid of the alkali taste, so we had a water cooler and delivery. My parents have well water and live next to a golf course and supposed there is a shitload of chemicals in the ground water from the runoff. So they have a water cooler and delivery.

    I rarely buy bottled water—great tap water here (Norwalk CT). Have tried most of them, and the ONLY one I’ve noticed that actually has a unique taste is that H20 stuff from Iceland. My sister had the same comment I did when she first tried it: “It tastes like snow.” It really does, and it’s great water as far as taste goes. But I can and do live without it—I wonder too much about the carbon footprint of getting it from Iceland to Connecticut.

    Fast Company has a really interesting article about bottled water.

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