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More Americans Turn to Expensive Bottled Water

Federal officials say it's safe for anyone to drink properly filtered water  yes, even in Flint. (cdc.gov)
Federal officials say it's safe for anyone to drink properly filtered water yes, even in Flint. (cdc.gov)
March 14, 2018

DETROIT – As the city of Flint still reels from its lead contamination crisis, bottled water sales are skyrocketing.

But what are those companies that sell bottled water actually selling to customers?

In its new report "Take Back the Tap," Food and Water Watch researchers look at the booming business of bottled water, which surpassed soda in sales in 2016.

The group finds nearly 64 percent of bottled water comes from municipal taps, and that it costs almost 2,000 times as much as tap water and four times as much as gasoline.

Patty Lovera, policy director for Food and Water Watch, says bottled water companies target demographics through advertising, especially immigrant communities.

"It is much more the norm in other countries where you have to go buy bottled water because the safety systems aren't there for tap water,” she states. “That's not the case in most American cities.

“That's pretty predatory to convince people they need to keep spending their hard earned money to do that, and undermining people's confidence in tap water."

Bottled water companies contend their water is safer.

The report also found about 70 percent of bottles aren't recycled and that 4 billion pounds of plastic were used to produce bottles in 2016. That's enough to fill the Empire State Building 1.3 times.

Although residents of Flint may disagree, Lovera says most tap water systems are safe, but she acknowledges the country's water infrastructure is in need of maintenance.

She maintains federal funding is the best avenue for those projects, but adds it can be difficult to get support for them.

"It's hard to build that political will if people think that you buy water at the grocery store, and you just have to go take care of it that way,” she states. “We kind of undermine this sense of ownership and accountability for having a tap water system that works for everybody."

The bottled water industry has spent millions lobbying the U.S. Congress and federal regulators. From 2014 to 2016, the industry spent nearly $29 million on in-house and hired lobbyists.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MI