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August 30, 2007

Aquafina Admits its Selling Tap Water

All Bottled Up: Aquafina Admits its Selling Tap Water

Recently, Pepsi admitted something that should have been embarrassing- it's
Aquafina brand water is just purified tap water in a bottle. By years end,
the company will start writing: "The Aquafina in this bottle is purified
water that originates from a public water source" on every bottle sold.

Pepsi released a statement saying: "If this helps clarify the fact that the
water originates from public sources, then it's a reasonable thing to do."

To their utter discredit, the two other largest bottled water companies
Coca-Cola, maker of Dasani, and Nestle, have no plans to start labeling
their water for wha it is: tap water or public water supply.

Conventional wisdom says that consumers want to purchase the best product
for the cheapest price. But if this was the case: why would people pay more
$1.50 for a litre of bottled water more than a litre of gasoline) when the
same stuff comes for free from the tap?

It's often said that a great salesman could sell ice to the Inuit. The
global bottled water industry, worth some $46 billion dollars in 2004, has
devised a similar hustle.

"Selling water is the ultimate form of privatization: a previously public
good sold back to people with no value added. It's an enormous waste of
resources," said Susan Howatt, National Water Campaigner for the Council of
Canadians, in an interview. "Bottled water undermines the public's
confidence in its own system. We actually have gloriously safe water in most
urban areas, yet the bottled water industry is acting like we need to buy
their product," said Howatt.

More than erroding trust in the public water supply and simply wasting
money, bottled water is an environmental nightmare. In the United States
alone, an estimated 60 million plastic water bottles are thrown away each
day. Most are not recycled. The Pacific Institute, an American think-tank,
estimates 20 million barrels of oil are used each year to make the plastic
for water bottles.

"The bottled water industry in Canada is not regulated by Health Canada, the
companies are self regulated, so literally no one is watching their taps"
said Howatt. Contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence that bottled
water is healthier than tap water, in fact the opposite may betrue.

In one study, published in The Archives of Family Medicine, researchers
compared bottled water with tap water from Cleveland and found that nearly a quarter of the samples of bottled water had significantly higher levels of bacteria.

The scientists concluded that "use of bottled water on the assumption of
purity can be misguided."

"The bottom line is you turn your tap on and you fill your bottle and you're
going to get something that's a better quality than you're paying $1.50 for
in the stores," said Fredericton, New Brunswick Mayor Brad Woodside during a
July 30th City Council meeting.

"Of course, tap water is not so abundant in the developing world," writes
Tom Standage in the International Herald Tribune. "And that is ultimately
why I find the illogical enthusiasm for bottled water not simply peculiar,
but distasteful. For those of us in the developed world, safe water is now
so abundant that we can afford to shun the tap water under our noses, and
drink bottled water intead: Our choice of water has become a lifestyle
option. For many people in the developing world, however, access to water
remains a matter of life or death."

A group of researchers at Dalhousie University predicted that in the year
2025, between 2.4 and 3.5 billion people will be livin in water stressed or
water scarce countries, compared to 505 million people in 2002. Some
theorists are predicting that the wars of this century will be fought over
cold, wet 'blue gold'.

The current war of words over bottled water isn't all bad, according to
Susan Howatt. "I do see the scale tipping, people are waking up to the fact
that this is public water that people have been buying for outrageous
rates."

Charlottetown PEI recently signed an agreement to serve tap water in their
offices and at public meetings after a local activist sent a letter to the
mayor pointing out the wastefulness of bottled water.

At the end of the day, however, consumers in the developed world have to
start taking responsibility for their actions. "On one hand, this [bottled
water salesmanship] is outrageous and I spend my life fighting against it,"
said Howatt, "but on the other, if people are stupid enough to continue
buying their products, then shame on us."


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