Kim Kardashian showed off a refrigerator full of Voss bottled water on Instagram Live, Gwyneth Paltrow is a brand ambassador for alkaline water brand Flow, and back in the early 00s, Paris Hilton was photographed partying with a bottle of $44 Bling H2O.
And the rest of us ordinary people? Well, we all drink bottled water from time to time too. It’s just so convenient! And for some of us, a necessity.
Whether you live in an area where water is delivered by the gallons-load because the tap water is undrinkable, occasionally grab a bottle at the gym, or like a fancy bottle of fizzy San Pellegrino when you’re having a meal out, it’s unlikely that bottled water is a foreign concept.
And yes, plastic bottles are environmentally problematic, but recycled bottles, glass bottles, and even cans and cardboard containers or water are becoming pretty en vogue.
However you enjoy bottled water, and however often you consume it, you’ve probably wondered from time to time, “where does bottled water come from?”, “what’s different about bottled water?” or even, “is bottled water better than tap water?”
Let’s dig into all that and more as we find out 21 amazing facts about bottled water.
- In the United States, more bottled water is sold by volume than milk and beer. In fact, in 2019 an incredible 14.4 billion dollars of water were sold bottled in the USA. Amazingly, around 15 billion gallons of water is sold per year in the USA! That’s an awful lot of H2O.
- Bottled water is a growing market, and it has been for a long time! So, if you want to invest in a sure thing why not put some money into water. It is estimated, in fact, that by 2026, 35% of spending and 9% of bottled water will be consumed out of the home in bars and restaurants, where the price is bumped even more than at-home consumption.
- Drinking bottled water (when you don’t have to) is pretty bad for the planet. We all know bottled water isn’t the most environmentally friendly option. But did you know that to cover demand for water bottles in the USA every year, about 17 million barrels of oil are needed. By some estimates, 8% of the world’s fossil fuels are used to make plastic bottles.
- We suck at recycling water bottles. In addition to using all that oil, most of the plastic bottles produced aren’t recycled. In fact, 20 billion bottles are sent to landfills and others are incinerated.
- It takes a lot of water to make a plastic water bottle. I know right… This seems ridiculous. But it’s true! It uses twice as much water to make a plastic bottle than you can fill that bottle with. How does that make sense? It takes manufacturers up to 3 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water if you factor in the amount of water needed to make the plastic bottle to contain it.
- Bottled water is a big deal all around the world In fact, it’s such a big deal that the bottled water industry is worth more than $170 billion worldwide.
- The price of bottled water can vary wildly. The average plastic bottle of water costs $1.29, but some “artisan” bottled waters can sell for hundreds of dollars or more.
- It takes an awfully long time for PET bottles to biodegrade. In fact, many plastic bottles (PET in particular) will take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade. That’s an awful lot of time, given it takes only a few minutes to down a bottle of water after a gym session!
- We’re drinking more and more bottled water. In the years between 1999 and 2004, bottled water consumption jumped 57% worldwide. Since then, those numbers have only increased… until recently.
- Apart from during COVID! For the first time in years, bottled water sales have fallen. Some brands lost 17% of their usual business. Things may bounce back, but with more emphasis on sustainable living maybe more people will be leaning towards sustainable solutions like reusable water bottles and at-home filter systems.
- Bottled water is used in relief efforts. The International Bottled Water Association is often involved in relief efforts, and has provided huge amounts of water in humanitarian crises both in the USA and abroad. Bottled water is a luxury for some, and for others, a necessity.
- Bottled water was first sold in Boston in the 1760s. It was marketed as a tonic at the time, which might tell us a lot about general health and lifestyle in the 1760s. I mean, what else were they drinking (mostly weak beer actually, so they were probably drunk all the time)!
- The price of bottled water doesn’t tell you much about its quality. Generally, the price of bottling water massively outweighs the cost of the actual water. In fact, 90% of the price is the packaging. This is illustrated by this study from London.
- There’s not just one kind of “bottled water”. The water in bottles could be spring, artesian well, or even tap! Just being in a bottle doesn’t mean your water is special. All four main types of water can be bottled.
- Well Water has probably been trapped underground for years! Well water comes from a hole drilled into the ground. These holes are meant to find an aquifer – an underground layer of water sometimes trapped in rock and sand. These pockets of water may well have been underground for a long time, but the rock and sand the water has drained through means it is lovely, clean and drinkable.
- There’s another kind of well water, too and you’ve probably never heard of it… But you have drunk it! Many bottled waters are artesian well water. An artesian well is a hole in the ground that reaches into an aquifer. Artesian wells tap into aquifers that are under a lot of pressure from the ground around them. Usually, this is clay, sand or rock. The pressure forces the water up and out of the well making it easy to retrieve. Sometimes, it is only forced partially out and must be extracted in a different way from that point.
- Spring Water has to come from an actual spring. Like, bubbling out a mountain! Spring water comes naturally to the surface after flowing through underground formations like rivers or tunnels of rock (sometimes called ghost rivers). The water should be collected from the spring where it naturally appears, or through boreholes into the underground formation through which it flows. Importantly, the collected water must have the same composition as water collected at the spring’s mouth or it cannot be called spring water. This means it is pretty hard to collect, and can’t be collected downstream from its source.
- Mineral Water must be naturally occurring. Mineral water is often confused with spring water, and it is similar. It comes from underground, though the exact way it is extracted is not important to its classification. Mineral water must contain 250 parts per million total dissolved solids, and these must be naturally occurring. They cannot be added later if you want water classified as mineral water.
- You might be getting tap water. Don’t worry too much – this tap water will have been treated by distillation, reverse osmosis, or absolute filtration. But still… it is from the tap.
- You should never reuse water single use bottles, at least not for drinking out a second time. Polyethylene terephthalate bottles (which is what most plastic bottles are made of) should only be used once. If used again, plastics leach into your water and then into your body.
- But, water bottles are getting safer! The FDA has strict rules about what water bottles are made of. They ensure that levels of chemicals that may be ingested when you drink from plastic bottles are at negligible levels. As long as you don’t keep reusing those bottles, of course.
Who’d have thought that bottled water could be so weird and interesting?
It seems like maybe trying to buy fewer plastic bottles might be a good idea, but also… well… the world needs water. So if you’ve got a hankering to do some investing, you might be quids in with H2O.
For your own personal water consumption, it’s interesting to note that most bottled water won’t be any better (or any different) to water that you filter at home, whether you use a decent filter pitcher or a top of the range reverse osmosis system.