Where Bottled Water Really Comes From

November 4th, 2013

Fresh mountain spring water in your bottle? Probably not!

fresh water river

Image via Alaskan Dude (flickr)

Where Bottled Water Really Comes From

Question: Where does bottled water really come from? Answer: You’ll be surprised! The water bottle industry wants you believing that their water comes from “natural spring” water sources. Sure! They employ a ton of people to hike up into the ole’ mountains with a bunch of plastic water bottles ready for filling! I wish it were true. If it were, not only would I do that for a living, but it also might be worth joining the bottled water drinking craze, because there’s nothing better than a handful of fresh spring water. Well, it’s not true, and you probably knew I was going to say that. So let’s discuss some facts about bottled water and shed a little light on the misconceptions perpetuated by the water bottling industry .

Just the Facts, Ma’am

A man after my own heart, Peter Gleick, wrote a little ditty about America’s obsession with bottled water that stirred up a bunch of controversy at the beginning of 2013… and so it should have. Gleick did a ton of research so we didn’t have to, and he found some very interesting facts about bottled water that he – thankfully – shared with us. Here’s what Gleick found out about our water bottle H2O:

  • Bottled water drinking costs Americans $11 billion annually.
  • That’s because we consume 9.1 billion gallons of the stuff each year.
  • 45 percent of bottled H2O is tap water or about a 50:50 combination of naturally sourced and tap water.
  • 55 percent of bottled H2O is actually spring water.
  • Natural springs are drying up due to bottled H2O demand.
  • Nestle Company settled a 2002 lawsuit for $10 million because it allegedly falsely advertised its water source.
  • 18 percent of water bottling companies will not disclose where their water is sourced.
  • 32 percent won’t disclose how they treat the water.

Seriously ?! I mean, really. Americans are spending $11 billion annually for the same stuff that comes out of their kitchen faucet and they had no idea. Makes me pretty angry; how about you? Especially when you can filter the stuff that comes out of your faucet for a fraction of the cost. Not to mention saving the natural springs and the environment!

How Can They Do This

If you are wondering how in the heck the bottled water industry gets away with pulling the wool so drastically over our eyes, blame the government. We blame it for pretty much everything anyway! In this case, however, it’s the truth. The federal government is to blame.

You see, because the water bottle is a consumable, the FDA , not the EPA, regulates the industry. The FDA’s job is to keep America shopping, let’s be totally honest, and they can’t regulate a multi-billion dollar industry out of the market – nor will they; even though they probably should. Consequently, the labeling criterion for these nasty bottles is pretty weak.

Basically, according to the EPA , the labeling rules only regulate the use of the words “spring water.” If the label says “glacier” or “mountain” water, that doesn’t mean squat, and the company doesn’t have to tell you where the water came from. In fact, in going over the facts about bottled water, I think it’s safe to say that any label other than “spring” is municipally sourced.

Don’t go running to your fridge and breathe a sigh of relief if your bottles say “spring” on them, because guess what? It still might not be 100 percent spring water, and the water itself doesn’t necessarily come from a natural water spring. Nope. Municipalities bore holes into the earth’s surface to collect underground spring water sources, and if the “spring” water comes from there, well that’s okay! Are you really mad yet?

Ways Around This

If you refuse to give up your bottled water drinking habit, despite all of my posts pointing out the baddies of this industry, fine. I can’t force you to change. So, let me tell you how you can tell – somewhat – where your plastic water is coming from, ’cause I love “y’all” anyway! Keep in mind; this isn’t full proof, because the water industry is not legally obligated to disclose their water sources. Some things to look out for are:

  • Look for specific water source locations, not just a generic statement like “bottled at numerous California springs.”
  • Look for water treatment information on the bottle. How does the bottling company treat its water?
  • Look for a website, phone number, or other information on the bottle giving you the option to research where the water comes from and how it is treated – don’t be disappointed if the contact information is a dead-end, however.
  • If your labels read “from a municipal source” or “community water source,” it’s bottled, treated tap water. Quit wasting your money and filter your own.

This post might have you a bit disturbed. I’ll tell you what distresses me. My facts are a bit lopsided. I should have more facts on how you can tell exactly where your bottled H2O comes from and how it is treated, and half the facts presenting the ugly truth about the drinking water industry . Unfortunately, this is not the case. The facts say it all: Where does bottled water really come from? For the most part, we don’t know. And, unless the FDA makes some much-needed changes, we never will.


Written By: Lynn Taylor

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