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This makes no sense. People who drink bottled water are not "making a much more ecological choice than those of us who choose to consume other beverages". If you buy a bottled drink then you impact the environment, but water is available for a greatly reduced price at ubiquitous sources. Other such drinks are neither much lower in price or available from other resources. Although other bottled drinks make a bigger impact on a bottle-by-bottle basis the bottled waters are of less necessity given their ubiquitous, cheap, and taste-identical status - so they are a highly cullable part of the bottled drinks phenomenan.

The point is not that it is larger problem than other drinks - it's not - just that it is completely unnecessary and far easier to solve.

Kris De Decker


I can follow your logic, Chris. But then you end up in a situation where you tell me not to drink water from a bottle, while you are sipping your Coke. You are allowed to use a bottle, because there is no alternative. I am not allowed to use a bottle, because there is. But your Coke is more damaging to the planet anyway. So how are you ever going to convince me that I can not use a bottle? You would only have a chance to do that if you stop drinking Coke and switch to tap water yourself. Then you have a right to speak. You can not solve the bottled water issue without solving the complete bottled drinks issue. Easy solutions do not exist.



The obvious difference, of course, is that soft drinks and fruit juices aren't available from taps in every building. The bottled water drinker has the option to procure his beverage of choice at a lower cost and with less use of energy and resources, and stupidly and needlessly chooses to waste money, resources and energy even though there is no benefit at all to himself. The drinker of soft drinks or fruit juices doesn't have the same option. Two people are each burning a light bulb; one because he's using the light to read by, and the other just for the hell of it. Only the latter is wasting energy.

Kris De Decker


I don't know, Bill. I like your comparison with the light bulb, but is there really a difference? I mean, the result is the same: consumption of energy. And has someone who reads serious literature more right to use electricity than someone who reads pulp fiction?

You say that the bottled water drinker needlessly chooses to waste energy. But so does the beer or fruit juice drinker. Because he or she could also choose to drink water. Soft drinks or fruit juice are not essential to human health. Water is.



hey thanxs great article really help me with my gcse project.



but I like beer

Kris De Decker


I'm sorry Fred

engineer dave


Give me Chivas Regal from a tap and I will stop buying it in bottles.

The fact of the matter is that water can be gotten from a tap so getting it from a bottle is completely unnecessary and a waste of resources. The other beverages that you talk about have no alternative that drinking from a bottle so thats how they come.

The argument that drinking any of them out a a bottle is "good" for the environment is wrong. Just some are less bad than others.

Kris De Decker


Drinking Chivas Regal from the tap would still be much worse for the environment than drinking bottled water, since it takes several thousands of liters of water to produce a liter of whiskey. You obviously don't get the point.



Often, people use bottled (flat) water as an alternative to tap water in areas where the tap water is either suspect, contains too much calcium to make a decent cup of tea of coffee, or just outrights tasted horrible even when it is technically safe to drink. They carry dozens of plastic bottles of cheap flat water home so they have decent water to make a hot drink or to cook with - or just as flat table water with a meal. In that sense, a lot of bottled water is sold as a result of a shortage in truly drinkable tap water.
Luxury waters like Perrier or 'Iceberg water' are of course as bad (morally if not technically) as a Coke.
One can make a perfectly good, ecologically sound cup of herbal tea using herbs from one's own yard or from a meadow nearby - but you need good quality water to do that. In some areas that probably means bottled water.



apples to apples please. The only logical conclusion here is that we should stop doing something, ie: drinking beer or tea.

If we are really going to start proscribing things, lets start by not building inefficient homes and stop driving around in private automobiles.



Also, some people cannot tolerate fluoridated water.

Although my city claims to have great water, by the time it travels through the 100 year old pipes, my water tastes HORRIBLE. I used a pool ph kit on my tap water, and the hardness was OFF THE SCALE!!! Like above 12. And for some reason, our "chlorine free" tap water comes out smelling like bleach.

There IS a big difference between bottled 'drinking water', which IS just purified tap water, and 'spring water', which is not tap water at all. Also, knowing what has been pulled out of Lake Arrowhead as far as junk, I don't drink Arrowhead water anymore...

I've tried filtering the tap water, that is ok in some areas of my city, but not up here. So I buy bottled water, and it is the only thing I drink 98% of the time.

Thanks for this article.



The comparison in the article is absurd. Coca Cola does not come out of my tap, WATER does. If someone wants to drink water, its easy to make the choice to drink tap water instead of bottled water, compare apples to apples please.
Also, the article minimizes the impact of manufacturing and bottling of the water, and the 1000 years it takes for the stupid plastic bottle to decompose, while it leaches toxic chemicals to the ground. Have you ever visualized where are the hundreds of plastic bottles that YOU have consumed over your lifetime? They are all somewhere, and will be there for the next 1000 years.

kris de decker


I advise you to read the other comments because others have made the same point before and I already replied to it.

As for the amount of plastic bottles that I personally have consumed in my life, the answer is simple: none. I drink tap water, not bottled water. I think bottled water is a waste of money and I don't feel like carrying all that weight from the supermarket to my appartment.

I wrote this article after I had been criticising someone who insists on drinking bottled water (and nothing else but bottled water). She gave me the answer I summarized in this article, and that left me pretty much without anything to say, because she is right.

I might not drink bottled water, but I consume litres of coffee, fruit juice, beer and wine, so my drinking habits are worse for the environment than hers.

About "the impact of manufacturing and bottling of the water, and the 1000 years it takes for the stupid plastic bottle to decompose, while it leaches toxic chemicals to the ground": the same is true for other bottled drinks, which was my whole point.



If you leave tap water in a pitcher, the chlorine evaporates off. If you put the pitcher in the refrigerator and add a slice of lemon, you've got yourself a treat.
Or if need be, there are numerous good filter set-ups.
Does it make any difference if you only drink sodas from aluminum cans, which recycle so well?

kris de decker


Nothing beats aluminum when it comes to recycling. You can recycle it forever, unlike paper and plastic. But I am afraid that only a small part of the cans makes it to the recycling plant. And even if it is half of them, this still means that a huge amount of this material is wasted. This could be solved, I guess.

Speaking Spirit


This is the sort of articles we need to write and this is the sort of attitude we need to have.
I am so annoyed of the ignorant people debunking bottled water.
I believe these consumers should be praised for choosing this healthier option than a toxic coca-cola or any other soft drink, energy drink and juice filled with so many chemicals and additives.
The lack of real education about our health, possibly from the influence of drug companies, leaves people so uneducated about how dehydrated people are, if only people know that most diseases and health challanges are due to dehydration, if only they knew that their taste buds or their thinking and buying patterns are owned by the billion dollar food and beverage industries, then they would also choose bottled water rather than energy drinks, soft drinks, etc.
There is a big push by the western government to use more tap water, as we are heading more into harder times, governments wants us to be fluoridated, as this makes people docile, it has nothing to do with teeth, research this yourself.
I live in a city that boasts one of the best tap waters, yet it has 53 chemicals in it including chlorine and fluoride, plus the bad taste.
for what ever reason people choose water, whether from a bottle or not, it should be encouraged.
What we should be banning is the soft drinks as they attribute to causing tooth decay, obesity and many other health issues.
WAKE UP people. Educate yourself before you base an opinion. Don't be a sheep and copy your opinion from those who have a political agenda.

As for myself, I have been in the health industry for over 38 years.
I have the facility to test water and I have tested many.
While most bottled water actually come from the tap, so you are paying a fee for the convenience to have those. There are actually some brilliant and some very healthy bottled water brands out there.

One of the most important thing when it come to having a vibrant health is to make sure you lead a balanced lifestyle and maintain an alkaline diet as disease thrives in an acidic environment. So if our bodies are made up of 70 - 80% of water, and you continue to drink acidic beverages like soft/soda drinks, energy drinks, alcohol, etc. you know you are heading downhill, it makes sense to eat your greens ( alkaline foods) and most importantly to drink Natural Alkaline Mineral Water, I did say Natural, they reason I said that is , there are a lot of companies who use tap water with all its chemicals and additives and add alkaline minerals to make the water alkaline and there are other people who use a machine to do the same thing. I've tested most of these waters and the the purest and healthiest water is again Natural Alkaline Mineral Water, however you can get hold of this water, in a bottle or not, this is the water to drink.
And before you guys say, water is water, you are wrong until you test and drink this water, then give me your opinion.

To your health.



Kris, the simple fact is that drinking bottled water is far far far more wasteful than drinking tap water. Beer, coffee, tea, etc are not relevant because they are consumed regardless of what water source is used.

Furthermore, claiming that we must solve "all" the problems associated with distribution of consumable products before we are allowed to criticize one in particular is disingenuous in the extreme.

If you want to be taken seriously, you are going to have to come up with better arguments than this.



Richard, you want better arguments?

You and me are sitting on a terrace. I am drinking bottled water. You are drinking bottled Coca-Cola. Same kind of bottle.

You tell me that I cannot drink bottled water because I could also drink tap water. Correct. But you could also drink tapwater instead of Coca-Cola. True, or not?

You are allowed to waste a bottle, I am not. But we both have the same alternative: tap water.

If I would drink a Coke, just like you, you would not bother telling me that I am a problem for the environment. But the result is the same: a plastic bottle is wasted.

If I throw loads of sugar in my water (what else is Coca-Cola?), suddenly I am allowed to use a plastic bottle. Weird.



This is stupid - you can drink water from a bottle or from the tap so you have a choice.
you can only drink coke etc from a bottle or a can, not a tap so their is no choice. your argument does not hold up.



You do have a choice: drink tap water instead of Coke.

And please read other people's comments before you react.

Google master


heyy realy great site i use it for all my information thanks for all the help.



In underdeveloped countries with dysfunctional or non-existent municipal water supplies -- which incidentally is where the bulk of mankind lives -- bottled drinking water is a boon. In the past several decades the municipal water situation in these places has gotten from bad to worse to unbelievable. It isn't likely to get better any time soon. For whatever reason large centralized distribution systems don't have much of a hope of working in these places (this problem isn't limited to water alone, BTW. Electricity for example is another one.) Distribution in bottles is far more decentralized than municipal water systems, and seems to be working much better at making clean water widely available.

Before bottled water showed up on the scene, there wasn't really a substitute for soda. Between 1990 and 1995 I worked in Lagos/Nigeria, where the only reason I never caught various horrible diseases (unlike some of my buddies who weren't so careful) is because I only drank soda. But that benefit came at a long term cost. It did terrible things to my metabolism. I gained a lot of weight that took years to shake off. Last time I was in the region, about 4 years ago, I was really glad to see bottled water commonly available. This time, that is all I drank. No sickness. No weight gain.



90+% of the time when I drink colas, it is from a fountain drink machine, which I assume has tap water as input. Better that than bottled water? Time to pull out the spreadsheets...

The Black Adder


i had a friend who used to jog behind the bus on the way to work and save $2 bus fare. When he got fitter he'd jog behind a taxi and save $30. Same logic.

Per Hassel Sorensen


Thank you for your excellent job writing this article. This is very important information that is unkown for most people. Unfortunately it seems from the comments that many people does not understand your point that the carbon footprint from drinking water from a bottle is much less than drinking coca-cola or juice from the same bottle.



This is a serious issue. Disregard for the moment the environmental impact of consuming water, the real problem is the environmental impact of going into communities, and pumping all the water out of it. Especially third world nations. Just watched this film: http://flowthefilm.com/ Did not expect to run into this article, which seems to have no mention of these implications. On the other hand, I'm not sure what environmental damage is caused from the creation of a soda product..

Sam F.


I'm sorry. I see your point that a coke drinker cannot criticize a bottled-water drinker, but that doesn't mean that one still shouldn't suggest that a bottled-water drinker should drink tap water.

Let's say that you are in one room with the curtains shut tight and the light on, and I am in another doing something equally wasteful, like playing videogames. Yes, sure, we are both wasting energy. Yes, sure, it would be hypocritical for me to tell you to stop wasting energy. But can't I still suggest that you open the curtains to let light in?

If you would be getting the exact same enjoyment as you are getting now (seeing light, or drinking water) and use much much less energy doing it, why shouldn't I suggest that you do it?

Everyone consumes energy. Having kids (adding people to the planet) is the most energy-consuming thing anyone can do. But does that mean that someone with kids can't tell the guy who has the heaters on full with all the windows and doors open that he's wasting energy?

Yes, drinking coke consumes energy. But drinking bottled water not only consumes energy but it does so _completely unnecessarily_, making it much more _wasteful_, because you could get the exact same enjoyment with tap water.



Assuming the article was serious not satire. Shouldn't the concussion be; those who have safe tap water, switch from drinking bottled water and any all those other beverages with high water and energy inputs to drinking tap water?



You all need to get a life, if u post these long things about wating water bottles and have nothing better to do u need help. The only reason i am commenting or even found this website is for a school project since it's now 2011 water bottle consumption is almost the same as carbonated beverages. There is 1 water bottle plant in northern CA that consumes more water than pepsi-cola product and budweiser combined. Plus every time plastic water bottles are exposed to any heat (appox. 70-120 degrees F) toxins from the plastic bottle. By the way the plastic in water bottles consume 17 million barrels of crude oil. Then there's tap water which is more strictly regulated than bottled (appox.22% of tested water bottle BRANDS dont pass inspection) tap water cost $0.0015 per gallon and bottled cost $10.00 per gallon, do the math (o yeah 40% of all bottled water came from a tap. Fun fact 314,000,000 tons of just plastic water bottles, there are 20,000 bottles per ton so doing the math thats 6,280,000,000,000 bottles and that was in 2005, that means these numbers have greatly increased since then. If tap water in your area isn't safe there are ways to fix that (water softner). Scources include:



How is this relevant to this site at all? Defense of an elaborate and unnecessary way of delivering tap water in single serving containers? An additional technological layer to solve a non-existent problem? Much of bottled water is sourced from municipality water sources (ie. tap water). What a strange article.

Kris De Decker


@ #31, #30, #28: None of you is reading what is written here. You keep repeating the same things over and over again, almost literally, see the comments below.

@ #29: You got the point. It's as simple as that. And the reason why so many people here get so mad, is because they refuse to accept the second part of your summary.



sorry, but i feel that drinking bottled water seems kinda foolish when you can purify your own tap water and carry it in another container, but if you run out of that water then i can see why you would drink bottled water. btw, i was more responding to the previous comments.



It is fun to give an article a provocative title and pull-out quotes and then spend 600 words making another unrelated and inconsequential case. But it is even more fun to then follow up by saying none of the commenters are capable of understanding the convoluted premise.



first i'm not stupid and second i found most of my facts online that were backed up by other websites i found, and if you dont beleive me check the links i left at the bottem of my first comment, btw i'm totally capably of understanding the convoluted premise. If you are gonna dis me do it with facts and proof to back it up, if u can i will beleive you, until then dont say anything.

Kris De Decker


Blake: I think Steve is aiming at the writer of the article, not at you.



Nice article. Shame people aren't getting it.



the point of the article as i understand it is that ANY bottled drink is FRIVOLOUS, irrespective of the fact that bottled water seems more so because tap water is readily available.

Comment 28 was on the money when he said its a matter of enjoyment. we buy coke/juice because it brings us pleasure...they are not essential and thus shouldn't be consumed, but we consume them anyway because they make us happy. SO while it makes sense to stop buying bottled water and instead use tap, perhaps we should should stop buying soft drinks and instead drink just water, or mix sugar in our water, or buy soft drink sachets and make our own soft drinks. there are always alternatives

Gidon Gerber


I am skeptical of claims that 170 litres of water are needed to produce one glass of fruit juice, which sounds as if it were a horribly inefficient and wasteful process. I suppose most of this water is needed to irrigate the fruit tree, and could come from rainfall if the tree is planted in a favourable climate. A small fraction of the water will stay in the fruit and the tree, but the rest will be recycled back into nature through evaporation or will go into the groundwater. Unless the water is polluted by fertilizer or pesticide, it is not wasted, but just goes back into the natural water cycle.

Kris De Decker


@ Gidon Gerber: these are the official figures, based on scientific research (see the links). However, these studies have been criticized lately for exactly the reasons you mention here.

It all depends where, in the case of fruit juice, the fruit trees are located. If that's in a rainy area, you can't say that 170 litres of water are wasted. However, quite some fruit tree plantations are in sunny locations where the water comes from irrigation or fossil water reserves, and then the figures of these studies are quite to the point.



How about carrying around a reusable water bottle and filling it with tap water.
That is the answer and water is available in developed world and we need to stop using throw away bottles for h20.



It is clear that Kris De Decker will allways tell you that you are wrong at saying bottled water is a stupid option when you can reuse the container and save lots of energy and money by filling it up with tap water (ok it automatically becomes bottled water but we all know what kind of bottled water he is talking about). He allways will tell you are wrong though it is completely sensible because he wrote an article titled: "Why bottled water is good for the environment". I like most of his articles but this time I feel a little disappointed.



A good title for this article would be "Bottled water is less harmful than other bottled beverages". Kris De Decker you are the one who is missing the point from the beginning because the title "Why bottled water is good for the environment" is wrong.



Let's put these next to each other: Getting your healthy dose of water from a tap rather than a bottle vs Drinking healthy water instead of drinking harmful soda. The former maybe lazy, but the latter are extremely lazy and uncaring for the environment and their own health.



Is it waaay too late to comment?

What I love about this article is that it got my thinking about not what I'm doing right, but what I could be doing better. Sometimes there seems to be a short list of important, but (grand scheme) small things that, if we do (or try to do) we get to feel satisfied and turn our attention to what others should be doing. But lets face it, I could always be greener, and I'm better at convincing myself that I need to improve something in my life than persuading another that they should fix theirs. So I will make that change (no more juice for me!) and wait for that glorious moment when someone asks me WHY I do that thing I do, and I get to hit them with a fact bomb!

Erica W


Good points, generally.

I would add something regarding tea and coffee. These are almost-sacred cultural rituals in many societies, because carefully boiling the water and sterilizing the equipment is a way to preserve life and hospitality, in situations where unsafe water could be lethal. Plastic bottles are being used the same way in tropical India, where a few hours of UV from sunlight vastly reduces the pathogen count in the water. (It increases the chemical contamination, too, as the plastics break down, but that's not going to kill you as quickly.)

You don't have to order tea from China or India to enjoy the ritual. There are a lot of tisanes (herbal teas) that can be made right out of the garden, or from locally-sourced herbs, fruits, flowers, etc. So if you want to meet friends for tea and bash bottled water, mint or wintergreen might be a good choice.



It is fairly simple, if the bottled water is replacing other bottled drinks, the end result is better for the environment. If the bottled water is replacing tap water, the end result is worse for the environment. In my own case, my main beverage of choice is filtered tap water and when I go out I almost always carry bottles of filtered water from home. Very occasionally I get caught out and need to buy a beverage when I am out (especially if I am in a location with no convenient taps or where the tap water is not desirable to drink). In this case, choosing bottled water over juice or soft drink is both a healthy and environmentally responsible choice and I would not wish to see bottled water removed from the market.
I also enjoy a cup of cocao sometimes. I don't know if this is better or worse for the environment than bottled water, but I have no reason to replace it with bottled water.



I get where you're going but the title of the article is horribly flawed. You're basically saying that doing one thing is good for the environment because there are other similar things that are worse for the environment.

That's like saying driving a car is good for the environment because at least that person isn't driving a truck or SUV. It may be better for the environment but I wouldn't go as far as saying it's good. They could be not polluting or using nearly as many resources at all by walking, biking, or public transit (that's running anyway).

I get your point but bottled water drinkers certainly do not deserve praise, they are just choosing the easiest most convenient option at the time just like people with cars (not choosing trucks or SUV's).



Actually, bottled water has been promoted as a healthy alternative to many sugary drinks and bottled water opponents do mention this, but not that those other drinks are also distributed in bottles and cans.



In an article on slowing down transportation, this magazine wrote (http://www.lowtechmagazine.com/2008/09/speed-energy.html)

"You could as well argue that airplanes are green because they consume less fuel than rockets. This sounds ridiculous now, but if rocket planes take off, their inventors will no doubt claim that their toys are environmentally friendly because they go faster than airplanes but consume less than rockets."

If planes aren't green for consuming less fuel than rockets, wouldn't your logic imply that bottled water isn't good for consuming less water than tea, coffee, and so on? Everything is good compared to worse things, making the headline meaningless.

Calling bottled water good makes tea, coffee, etc the standard to compare it against, which seems counterproductive. They didn't exist for most of human existence. Why not compare all beverages against tap water, where available?

Moreover, since many people follow the debunked myth that there is health benefit to eight cups of water a day or more, the alternative to a lot of the water people drink isn't tea, coffee, juice, etc, nor bottled water, nor tap water, but simply drinking less water.



Billions of people on this planet do not have any access to drinkable tap water and are forced to buy bottled water. Most homes don't buy single bottles but buy the bigger 5 gallon water jugs(which are used in office buildings in western countries), In this case drinking bottled water is a better choice.

Drinking water can be also energy intensive if it was processed through desalination what happens a lot in the middle east.



11 years have passed and little has changed, we see more people carrying bottles they fill at home yet no public places to refill the bottles (with filtered water without taste), only WC water that smells like swimming pool water because of the chlorine. Many of them end up being forced to buy bottled water. This is what I see in my country (Portugal). Other countries may have better tasting water.



You make an interesting point: tap water would be most ecofriendly, then perhaps bottled water, then other drinks.

One thing I don't know if was factored in, though, was the value of those calories and nutrients that are added in juices, beers, etc.

If it took 10 liters of water to provide 100 liquid calories, and it takes 10 liters of water to provide 100 solid food calories, then the soft drink would be equivalent in its impact to bottled water (or eating). If the numbers are adjusted, then the flavored drinks might win out over bottled water; would be interesting to compare the numbers between liquid calorie to water consumption amounts vs. solid calorie to water consumption amounts. I'm guessing that solid food and tap water win out overall, although maybe there might be some drinks that are like "meal replacement" drinks that have a lot of calories that could win out.



And don't forget what people use to wash those re-usable drinking vessels... more drinking water (heated btw) right down the drain.

Krystol Caeser


@Leon | January 17, 2018 at 04:31 AM and Josh

What (impartial) standards body do you trust for information when comparing bottled H20 and water from the tap/faucet?

@Ben | April 19, 2016 at 06:22 AM

Surely the starting point is that these people were going to purchase a factory manufactured beverage in a container, no matter what. With that as a given, what can be done to ameliorate the ecological impact?

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