What’s In Your Bottled Water – Besides Water? 2011 Bottled Water Scorecard | Environmental Working Group

published by 2011 Bottled Water Scorecard | Environmental Working Group. Please visit the site to download the complete report and check your bottled water brand.

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 water 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?

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 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 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 water source, treatment and quality and
that use advanced treatment methods to remove a broad range of pollutants.

 

The Story of Bottled Water

The Story of Bottled Water by Madeline Ostrander, senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Worried about what’s in your tap?

That’s exactly what the water bottling industry hoped when it developed brands like Dasani, Perrier, and Poland Springs, which promise to be “natural,” “pure,” “clean,” even “sexy” alternatives to tap water.

But the very companies that market those brands, like Nestlé and Coca Cola, are putting public water supplies in jeopardy in communities both in the United States and overseas. They’re selling us a product that is often not any cleaner than tap water, and is a lot pricier.

Bottled water is a scam. The simplest way to understand why is to watch a new, short film released today by the creators of The Story of Stuff. Like its predecessor, The Story of Bottled Water uses simple language and surprisingly charming stick figures to walk you through the perils of the bottled water economy. “Bottled water costs about 2,000 times more than tap water,” says Annie Leonard, the film’s narrator and director. “Can you imagine paying 2,000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich?”

The Story of Bottled Water film still

Bottled water often comes straight from the tap, sometimes with a little filtering, sometimes not. It is not necessarily safer. For instance, in 2004, the Coca-Cola company had to recall all of its Dasani water from the United Kingdom, after officials discovered the water exceeded the legal limit for bromate, a carcinogen. The Environmental Working Group recently tested 10 brands of bottled water—on average, they contained eight chemical pollutants, no better than tap water.

But there’s something even more insidious about the way that the bottled water industry preys on our public water systems and tap water. Water is both the most basic of human needs and a product of nature. It can’t actually be manufactured, so bottling it up and selling it always means removing water from a public source. As the bottled water market has taken off, we’ve seen public water fountains begin to disappear. Meanwhile, citizens in rural towns have begun to take notice that water-bottling companies are trying to sell off water that actually belongs to them. Communities like Barnstead, New Hampshire have fought hard to keep Nestle from bottling and shipping away their local water.

China’s Living Water Garden
Photo essay: Chengdu’s most popular public park is is a 5.9 acre inner-city natural water treatment system.

We’ve gotten used to thinking we have more than enough water to go around in this country, but it’s not true. According to experts like Peter Gleick, the United States is facing a water crisis that will only get worse in coming years. Already major water supplies like the Ogallala Aquifer and Lake Mead, which together supply water for millions across the Southwest and Great Plains, are in big danger of running dry. Climate change is going to alter everything we know about water—how much stays in our reservoirs, how much snow falls in the Sierras, how our rivers flow, and how much we have available to drink, irrigate our crops, and water our lawns. When we let a private company control, bottle, or sell our water—whether it’s Coca-Cola or the private water operator Thames—we’re giving up some measure of control over our health, environment, lives, and futures.

In May, YES! Magazine will unveil a full issue about how to protect our water and keep it clean and accessible. You’ll read about radical breakthroughs in contentious Western water wars, about a community that bought its water back from private control, about farms that are learning how save water by taking care of soil, and about ways to get all the water you need, even if you live in the heart of the desert.

In the meantime, you can celebrate World Water Day by watching The Story of Bottled Water, and read more about campaigns to protect water in our online and magazine coverage.


Madeline Ostrander

Madeline Ostrander is senior editor of YES! Magazine.

Interested?
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A global water justice movement is demanding a change in international law to ensure the universal right to clean water for all.