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Thread: How water bottlers tap into all sorts of sources

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    Elite Member celeb_2006's Avatar
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    Default How water bottlers tap into all sorts of sources

    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/articl...UGBONL7VI1.DTL

    In early 2004, Coca-Cola launched its Dasani brand of bottled water in Britain. Dasani had already established itself as one of the most popular bottled waters in the United States.

    Within weeks, however, Coke had a disaster in the making. The British press discovered that Dasani was nothing more than processed tap water and ran a series of indignant stories suggesting that consumers were being hoodwinked by the U.S. beverage giant.

    Shortly afterward, a cancer-causing chemical -- bromate -- was discovered in Dasani bottles produced in Britain. The water was quickly withdrawn from store shelves and plans were canceled to market Dasani elsewhere in Europe, which to this day remains a Dasani-free zone.

    "In the USA, it is the bottled-water market's second-most-popular drink," London's Independent newspaper observed. "Which goes to show we may have a special relationship with America, but there's a lot of clear blue water between us."

    Ray Crockett, a spokesman for Coke, shrugged off the criticism. "There's no accounting for the British press," he said.

    Be that as it may, most Americans are probably unaware that Dasani, like many bottled waters sold in the United States, doesn't originate from pristine mountain springs; it starts in the same pipes that run into people's kitchens.

    Dasani undergoes a filtering process and, according to Coke, is "enhanced with minerals for a pure, fresh taste." But, in the end, it's still tap water.

    "The consumer doesn't seem to care about source," said Gary Hemphill, managing director of New York's Beverage Marketing Corp., the leading compiler of statistics about the beverage industry. "As long as it tastes good."

    As I reported in Wednesday's column, Americans spent an estimated $11 billion last year drinking 8.3 billion gallons of bottled water.

    That means the average American consumed almost 28 gallons of Dasani, Aquafina, Evian or hundreds of other brands -- more than any other commercial beverage except soda. More than milk. More than coffee. More than beer.

    Beverage Marketing Corp. estimates that the typical half-liter container of bottled water sells for about a dollar. That equates with a price of roughly $7.50 per gallon (although it's cheaper when bought by the case or in the five-gallon jugs found in many offices). Some of the more expensive brands can cost as much as $11 per gallon.

    A gallon of regular unleaded gas was selling nationwide Thursday for an average $2.20, according to AAA.

    "It's ridiculous," said Richard Wilk, a professor of anthropology at Indiana University who has studied the bottled-water industry. "Why do people spend so much to drink water from glaciers or from Iceland? What's the difference?"

    Consumers typically say bottled water tastes better than tap water. But a series of well-publicized taste tests have repeatedly shown that tap water in municipalities nationwide compares favorably with most bottled waters.

    Consumers also say they have health concerns about tap water. But, again, studies have repeatedly shown that tap water in most U.S. cities is as healthy as the bottled variety.

    In San Francisco, city officials collected nearly 34,000 samples from the water supply in 2005 and ran more than 100,000 water-quality tests. "All compliance monitoring results met or exceeded federal and state drinking water regulations," the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission reported.

    That same year, the commission held a blind taste test near the Ferry Building. The 300 participants were offered samples of two popular bottled-water brands (Crystal Geyser and Aquafina) and local tap water.

    Half said they preferred the tap water. Twenty-five percent picked bottled water. And 25 percent said they couldn't tell the difference.

    "I'd put our water up against bottled water any day," said Susan Leal, general manager of the commission.

    The bottled-water industry downplays comparisons with far cheaper tap water, saying the boom in sales reflects consumers choosing bottled water over soda and other drinks, not as an alternative to what comes out of the faucet.

    "Consumers are choosing bottled water in lieu of other packaged beverages," said Stephen Kay, spokesman for the International Bottled Water Association, the leading industry trade group. "They're looking for more water in their diet."

    This sentiment was echoed by Jane Lazgin, a spokeswoman for Nestle Waters North America, which sells bottled water under the Perrier, Arrowhead and Poland Spring brands, among others.

    "People want to avoid drinks that have calories, that have caffeine," she said. "This is the role that bottled water is playing in society today."

    But John Sicher, the editor and publisher of an influential industry publication called Beverage Digest, said the trend away from soda is only part of the story.

    "Consumers are drinking less tap water than they did 10 years ago," he observed. "One reason is the ubiquity of bottled water."

    Not all bottled waters are the same. While many containers depict flowing rivers or mountain vistas, you have to read the label carefully to know whether the contents come from a spring or a faucet.

    Under guidelines set by the Food and Drug Administration, spring water is water that flows naturally to the surface from an underground source. Mineral water also comes from an underground source but contains at least 250 parts per million dissolved solids such as minerals and trace elements.

    If the label doesn't specify spring water or mineral water, it isn't.

    The leading bottled water brand in the United States is PepsiCo's Aquafina, followed by Coke's Dasani. Each does more than $1 billion in annual sales, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.

    Both Aquafina and Dasani, as well as many other bottled-water brands sold in stores and supermarkets, are what the FDA calls purified water. Purified water comes from the same municipal pipes that everyone else's water comes from.

    The difference is that purified water undergoes any of a variety of filtration treatments to remove chlorine and most dissolved solids.

    "It's municipal-source water that's been purified," explained Hemphill at Beverage Marketing Corp.

    In other words, tap water.

    "I guess that's how you could identify it."

    The irony is that, while the packaging of purified water frequently evokes natural settings and often features the word "pure," it is distinct from ordinary tap water precisely because it has been run through sophisticated machinery.

    It is, in other words, anything but natural. Industry representatives generally make no pretense of claiming that purified water is better for consumers than most tap water.

    "We like to think that the reason people buy our bottled water is because it tastes great," said Coke's Crockett.

    Ultimately, it's still water -- tasteless, odorless, colorless. But the beverage industry spent about $60 million in 2005 to convince people that they should drink their water from plastic bottles.

    "There are subtle taste differences among the brands," insisted Kay at the International Bottled Water Association. "It depends on the consumer's palate."

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    We bought a case of Dasani when our water had bad turbidity levels.
    That brand is more expensive than others. Now we buy Nestle bottled water. But we might as well be just filtering our own tap water?

    Consumers typically say bottled water tastes better than tap water. But a series of well-publicized taste tests have repeatedly shown that tap water in municipalities nationwide compares favorably with most bottled waters.
    A chemistry prof talked about this in a class I took some years ago. Supposedly because tap water has more oxygen in it or something thus more palatable.

    If you think it's crazy, you ain't seen a thing. Just wait until we're goin down in flames.

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    Elite Member Lobelia's Avatar
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    I live in a city of hot springs, & I can go to any downtown spring & get real mineral water for free. I can tell the difference, by taste, between the different springs available here in town. I have a favorite spring, and that's where I refill my big water cooler jugs.

    That said, I think I can tell the difference between tap water & bottled water. There are some brands of bottled water that I don't like, including a local brand. I do like Dasani. It's not nearly as good as my local favorite spring, but it's a nice, neutral drinking water that doesn't have any weird surprises.

    I'm like the people in the article who say that they don't really care about the source, but they care about the taste. I tend to like water with a slight metallic taste, and I can't stand most tap water. If I get water in a restaurant, I'll get a slice of lemon to make it drinkable.

    ETA: Mooms, I buy Nestle for my work's summer program, but I can't drink it. I think it's AWFUL.
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    Silver Member CherubRock's Avatar
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    I drink tap water. I think it's foolish to pay for water when you don't have to.

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    I have a Britta filter fixed to my faucet. Not perfect, but helps. Our water tastes great and is high quality, but I do it for reassurance more than anything else.

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lobelia View Post
    ETA: Mooms, I buy Nestle for my work's summer program, but I can't drink it. I think it's AWFUL.
    I can't really tell . I used to hate drinking water anyway but I've improved. I don't know what other brands are available and good. We just buy cases from Costco so what they sell is what we buy.

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    The tap water around where I live is really disgusting. There is a big difference around here between tap and bottled water.

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    Hit By Ban Bus! pacific breeze's Avatar
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    Coca Cola has to be one of the biggest multi-national scammers in the world. They were selling Coke in India that had known carcinogens in it, and did nothing. And remember they market this sugary, carcinogenic crap to children.

    I boycott Nestle -- they are another multi-national without a conscience. They run huge campaigns to convince destitute women in Africa to give formula to their babies when they do not have access to clean water, and breast milk is better for their babies anyway.

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    Elite Member Lobelia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by moomies View Post
    I can't really tell . I used to hate drinking water anyway but I've improved. I don't know what other brands are available and good. We just buy cases from Costco so what they sell is what we buy.

    I think that growing up around such wonderful water has spoiled me. When I lived far away, I missed it a lot. As soon as I'd get home for visits, I'd want to get water from my favorite spring. It's a great perk around here.

    Hey, that's a pun.
    "I've cautiously embraced jeggings"
    Emma Peel aka Pacific Breeze aka Wilde1 aka gogodancer aka maribou

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    Elite Member moomies's Avatar
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    I remeber seeing stickers and things in SFU bathrooms saying Coca Cola kills...

    Thanks for the info PB, I'll look for another brand to purchase.

    If you think it's crazy, you ain't seen a thing. Just wait until we're goin down in flames.

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    This reminds me, one time a lady brought bottled water as part of her oral presentation. She passed it out and we later opened and drank it - or tried to.

    It was SO BAD that I almost spat it out. Some really cheapo brand that a store like the dollar stores sell. Truly, horribly wicked - and probably bad for you too!

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    Super Moderator Tati's Avatar
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    ...the boom in sales reflects consumers choosing bottled water over soda and other drinks, not as an alternative to what comes out of the faucet.
    I think this is largely the case. I seldom buy bottled water, but when I do it's only because I'm out somewhere and thirsty, and I just buy it over pop or juice. I'll also buy a case for guests if I'm hosting a party. If I'm just at home though, I'll definitely drink tap water, and use a sports bottle to take out if I think of it.

    I have lived in one mining town though, where the tap water was just vile; not just metallic, which I can take, but really gross and not refreshing. I would have bought bottled if I had stayed there for any length of time.

    I also boycott Nestle, for the same reasons PB posted. I see their cases of water on for ridiculously cheap prices all the time, but they are EVIL! Just say no!
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    All around little communities in East Texas there are signs put up by the townspeople saying "GET OUT OSARKA WATER" which makes me sad everytime I drive by them. God knows what has been done to those sweet people by a giant. I stick to tap water or tea if it is bad.
    It strikes me whatever Osarka does is done by the other big water companies also.
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    We had well water when I was growing up. The town I lived in was very historic and they were reluctant to put in "city water" as it was called, for fear of damaging the structure and the cobblestone streets. We had excellent well water and once the city water was put in, it took a while to get used to it. After a while, you did and it was good. The tap water in Miami is yellow. Toilets always have a faint yellow color so it looks like they may not have been flushed! California, well, since I've lived here I've been drinking Arrowhead water. It tastes fine to me. Of course, I'm sure it's slowly killing me

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