The Bottled Water Industry Deception

The Bottled Water Industry Deception

The bottled water industry created the greatest deception since the tobacco industry in the 1950’s. Similar to how the tobacco industry spent millions on “false” advertising, the bottled water industry spends billions each year to make you think you need their “pure” water. To make matters worse, the water their selling you for a premium price is often tap water!

When bottled water was first introduced, consumer’s thought it was a joke. How could companies take a free resource and successfully turn it into a commodity? To put this into perspective, buying bottled water is like buying oxygen. Everyone has a right to clean water just as everyone has a right to clean, fresh air.

The truth about bottled water regulation

Bottled water regulation operates on a different level than tap water. It is treated as a food in the United States, and is therefore subject to the rules and regulations of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Tap water regulation, on the other hand, is performed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and does not undergo the same rules of regulation. Additionally, the EPA’s set of rules for tap water is much more strict than those of the FDA’s for bottled water.

Not all bottled water goes through the FDA, however; an estimated 60-70% of bottled water is not covered by FDA rules. Water bottles which are sold only within 1 state don’t adhere to the FDA’s rules and regulations. With about 60-70% of bottled water only being sold in one state, that same percentage is basically ignored by the FDA. Government regulation, if any, is left to the state governments.

Some bottled water doesn’t even need to go through the FDA due to what it says on the label. The FDA has a definition of “bottled water” that exempts many bottled water’s from FDA regulation. The following products are NOT bottled water (by FDA standards) if the ingredient label simply says:

  • “water”
  • “carbonated water”
  • “disinfected water”
  • “filtered water”
  • “seltzer water”
  • “soda water”
  • “sparkling water”
  • “tonic water”

Evidently, there must be a great deal of controversy at the government level over what should be considered bottled water.

But most importantly, bottled water doesn’t need to meet the high standards that city tap water must meet in terms of water treatment, contamination, and other testing. 

  • On the federal level, it is not mandated that bottled water be any safer than tap water – chemical pollution standards are nearly identical
  • Depending on the contaminant being tested for, the FDA requires water treatment testing for contaminants only once a week, once a year, or once every four years. The EPA requires testing several times a day for contaminants.

Various studies performed by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) prove that the testing performed by the FDA is in dire need of improvement. One of the extensive studies, which has been considered “groundbreaking”, shows the following results:

  • 9 out of 10 of the best selling bottled water brands either don’t disclose information about the source of the water, contamination testing, or if and how it is purified
  • Out of the 173 bottled water brands surveyed, over 50% flunked EWG’s transparency test
  • 18% of the bottled water tested failed to make known the location of their water source
  • 32% disclosed no information regarding the treatment or purity of the water

You may be paying almost 2000 times MORE than you normally would for water

Yes, after the bottled water industry spent billions on marketing and advertising, consumers are paying almost 2000 times more than they normally would to drink water. A typical cost per gallon of bottled water is $3.79 while a typical cost of tap water is $0.002/gallon.

With the U.S. consuming over 9 billion gallons of bottled water in 2008, that comes out to be …a lot of overspent money. In fact, the bottled water industry raked in more than $11 billion that same year. Can you imagine paying 2000x more for ANYTHING? I’m sure it would make anyone very angry to know that they’ve been conned into paying a 2000% markup on anything.

The worst part?

Close to HALF of all bottled water is municipal tap water!

It is obvious that most people are unaware of this, or bottled water sales would face a MASSIVE decline immediately. Bottled water manufacturers claim that they are simply responding to consumer demand, and that people want to buy the tap water. This may be true, but in what universe are the companies not responsible for creating such demand that no one would actually come up with on their own?

Companies spend billions to tell the public that their bottled water is pure, and that you and I need it now. This is false advertising. If that same amount of money was spent right now to inform the public that such claims are almost never true, then the bottled water industry would suffer a huge sales decline for good.

This leaves consumer’s to educate themselves by researching the topic firsthand. As if it isn’t bad enough that consumers need to worry about poor water treatment due to poor water regulation, but the same water is being pushed as pure and fresh.

Is it really worth destroying the planet over?

Humans thrive on the quality of the world we live in. Plastic and bottled water has become a main culprit in lessening the quality of the world we live in. Nature is suffering at the expense of what can’t even be considered to be anything more than a small amount of convenience. Bottled water provides a source of water for traveling purposes at best. But at what earthly costs?

  • 1.5 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water annually
  • The U.S. uses 1.5 million barrels of oil for plastic water bottle manufacturing
  • People in the U.S. spend about half a billion dollars ($500,000,000) every week on bottled water
  • 1,500 bottles are thrown away every second
  • 4 billion pounds of PET plastic bottles end up in landfills or as roadside litter. Much of the rest are incinerated while releasing chemicals into the air. And others end up in the ocean where they slowly disintegrate into our water.
  • Bottled water takes approximately 2000 time more energy to produce than an equivalent amount of tap water

From glass to plastic – one giant step toward bodily harm

Although some bottled water brands still use glass for their products, most have switched over to plastic. Companies probably did this to lower costs. After all, plastic weighs much less than glass and therefore uses less fuel to ship and transport. Unfortunately this switch ends up affecting a bit more than just company expenditures.

Within these plastic bottles that everyone drinks from are chemicals, most notably, Bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is a chemical that interrupts hormones in the body and is used in the manufacturing of many plastics which include baby bottles, plastic water bottles, and toys. This chemical leaches into the plastic and then is consumed by the people.

After consumed, it causes all types of damage to the body, and then finally is once again let out in our water supply through urine. Similarly, the plastic bottles that are incinerated end up releasing all of these chemicals into our air.

Research tells us that Bisphenol A contributs to the following:

  • Prostate Cancer
  • Early onset puberty in girls
  • Obesity
  • Hyperactivity, impaired learning
  • Brain Damage
  • Breast Cancer
  • Developmental problems on fetuses, infants, and children
  • Alteration in gender-specific behavior in boys

It is also important to note that a greater amount of BPA leaches into plastic if the plastic has been sitting in heat or is reused.

Tap water isn’t always better than bottled water – unless it’s filtered

It’s important to realize that even with all the deception behind bottled water and the bottled water industry, unfiltered tap water is NOT a healthy alternative. Unfiltered tap water, like bottled water, still contains a huge amount harmful substances.

  • Lead
  • Arsenic
  • Pharmaceutical drugs
  • Recreational drugs
  • Chlorine
  • Fluoride
  • Rocket fuel
  • Radiation

So many other chemicals are present in the water at levels that should not be ingested. Here is an article outlining a small portion of what’s in our water.

Many of these substances have been shown to cause brain damage, a decrease in IQ level, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.


The solution is simple. Stop drinking bottled water! IF you decided right now to stop drinking bottled water regularly, and to deem it only for occasions such as traveling or bike rides, then you will:

  • Save yourself hundreds of dollars every year
  • Literally be saving the planet from completely unnecessary pollution
  • Save society resources to use for other needs
  • No longer be under the influence of bottled water industry lies
  • Stop consuming hundreds of harmful substances that you had no knowledge of that was in the water
  • Reduce the ingestion Bisphenol A (BPA) which is leached into the water from the plastic
  • Buy a water filter for your sink and drink the filtered water (you will do this, won’t you!?)

Take a stand against bottled water

If after reading this you feel SO empowered that you just want to throw out all the bottled water in your home, well just wait a moment. Save it for when you need it, but that doesn’t mean you can’t really take a stand. Saving the planet and resources isn’t out of reach and it certainly shouldn’t be overlooked.

Inform people of your new-found knowledge. Next time you’re having a conversation with someone or see someone drinking a bottle of water don’t hesitate to say “hey, did you know that you’re paying 2000 times more than you would EVER pay for water.”

It will strike up an interesting conversation the person probably hasn’t had before, and that person will also learn something that is really worth learning.

References for this page include:
  1. Leiba, Nneka, Sean Gray, and Jane Houlihan. 2011 Bottled Water Scorecard. Environmental Working Group, 2011. 5-10, 19. 
  2. Mercola, Joseph. “‘Tapped’ – A Movie About Water You Need to See.” Take Control of Your Health. Dr. Joseph Mercola, 06 05 2010. Web. 17 May 2011.
  3. Olson, Erik. “NRDC: Bottled Water – Chapter 4.” Natural Resources Defense Council The Earth’s Best Defense. Natural Resources Defense Council, 01 04 1999. Web. 17 May 2011. 
  4. Mercola, Joseph. “Best and Worst Bottled Water Brands.” Take Control of Your Health. Dr. Joseph Mercola, 21 01 2011. Web. 17 May 2011.

10 thoughts on “The Bottled Water Industry Deception

  1. Any article that referes to Dr Mercola has no substnace at all and clearly shows the lack of information the writer has on the subject, eg: bottled water.

    It is very obvious that Dr Mercola has shifting view regarding water, bottled water and filters, as he use on type of filter and recommends and sells another.

    Yes, there are many types of bottled water and some are from the tap, BUT, bottled water is still the healthiest beverage on the market and it is still way healthier than tap water.

    There has never been any report cases from bottled water but thousands of people are affected by tap water all around the world.

    Cheers to healthy Bottled Water – No Fluoride, No Chlorine and bad taste.

    1. Very misleading article too. Studies on BPA have shown the big brands (Dasani, Nestle, etc) have NO BPA and they are filtered better than most home filtration units.

  2. The bottom line is that some brands have a complex filtration system, while others don't have one at all. It all boils down to carefully choosing which brand of bottled water to buy.

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