Bottled Water Facts
A critical focus on the bottled water industry over the past five years, continues today.
A quick review of recent news items finds issues such as campus bottled water bans and local conflicts over water resource extraction legislation receiving press attention.
Sorting through the many, sometimes related, bottled water issues comes with challenges, including finding reliable statistical information for the topics under discussion.
Putting the issue of bottled water usage in perspective, for example, might be aided by comparing it with more general, and reliable per capita beverage consumption statistics. In February 2011, the ERS noted the absence of the Beverage Marketing Corporation's data series on carbonated soft drinks (soda), bottled water and other items in their data set, explaining their absence as per the request of the Corporation.
The last remaining publication of the original ERS beverage consumption data set appeared in the 2010 Statistical Abstract (Table 210). The chart at the top of the page reflects that data set.
Examining consumer bottled water consumption in the context of a more general discussion covering consumer per capita beverage consumption of the seven most common commercial beverages, provides one aggregate approach suitable for the task of sorting through recent public bottled water discussions.
The chart's twenty seven year range (1980-2007) covers changing American beverage consumption habits for the seven primary categories of commercial beverages: Milk; Tea; Coffee; Bottled Water; Soda; Fruit Juices; Alcohol.
The four bars covering the bottled water portion of the chart show upward growth in per capita consumption over the time frame.
Beginning of the 1980s, bottled water constituted a very small portion of American beverage consumption, with per capita consumption recorded as 2.7 gallons/person.
Twenty seven years later per capita consumption of bottled water reached the 29.1 gallons/person mark. Simply stated, bottled water became a 24/7, must have item, for many Americans.
A broader eye on the chart statistics tells the parallel story of the average American's increased consumption of carbonated soft drinks (soda) and decreased consumption of milk.
Per capita consumption of tea, coffee, fruit juices and alcohol appear to have remained fairly stable over that same twenty seven year period.
Increases in bottled water consumption over twenty seven years explain mush of current economic and environmental critiques of, and support for, the bottled water industry.
Arguably, the health effects associated with increased water consumption rank at the top of the bottled water merits list. Both medical and nutrition specialists tout the merits of water consumption.
Because much of the bottled water industry operates within state boundaries, industry water quality testing and standards can differ from state to state, meaning consumer safety relies on local industry quality control practices.
These aggregate, per capita water statistics tell us some interesting facts about American consumption habits. Having additional, more granular, data addressing specific state and local bottled water issues might also prove useful for consumer education purposes.
Plastic waste, an issue receiving a fair amount of attention, tends to rank at the top of the bottled water environmental concerns list.
According to the Container Recycling Institute, "Americans buy an estimated 28 billion single-serving (1 liter or less) plastic water bottles each year. More than eight out of ten end up in a landfill or incinerator."
The National Park Service regularly experiences the bottled water habits of its visitors, with many parks separately tracking plastic bottle waste because of its increased presence.
A few parks, including the Grand Canyon, decided to ban the sale of water in plastic bottles on their grounds as a waste management tool. Visitors are invited to bring their own, recyclable water bottles, and refill them when needed.
© 2009-2012. Patricia A. Michaels