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.