UK bottled water consumption reached 34 litres per person in 2008, up from 27 litres in 2001. Bottled water consumption is projected to reach 40 litres per person by 2015. In the US, bottled water is drunk at an average rate of 105 litres per person up from 67 litres per head in 2002. In Italy bottled water consumption has grown from 194 litres per head in 2002 to an estimated 200 litres in 2008.
The UK market has a lot of room to grow if the market follows the lead in other countries. People are responding to health advice that drinking water is good for you and are concerned that the water they drink is pure and healthy. This is big business with a large, and growing, resources bill for the bottles and their transportation.
There have been a number of studies comparing the quality of bottled water with tap water. For Helsinki, tap water comes out with an excellent report. In fact there is one company bottling and shipping Helsinki tap water to be sold in the Middle East. London tap water may not get such glowing reports but it is healthy and safe to drink.
Carefully managing water supplies is vital to human health. It might be better to ensure that all our drinking water is safe and put the bottled water business (and the associated resource consumption) out of business.
That would then lead onto tackling another associated anomaly – that we use clean water for flushing toilets. We would not flush the toilet with Evian; why flush it with tap water? Flushing loos should reuse grey water from our washing activities.
Rather than bottled water, we need protected water sheds and more complex plumbing.