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All About Bottled Water

Perrier BottleDo you have a favorite brand of bottled water? Would it surprise you to find out that most people do?

Selling water by the bottle is an international multi-billion dollar industry that shows no sign of drying up anytime soon. Just in the U.S., approximately 600 brands of bottled water are being produced and consumed at a healthy clip.

According to the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC), the average wholesale price per gallon of domestic non-sparkling bottled water was $1.21 in 2013. That's not the price you pay, though. If you buy a bottle on the street or at an event, you'll pay much more than that. You can find bargains, but around $2 is the average price. Up to $5 for a small bottle can seem fair if you are waiting on a long line in the hot sun and you can pay up to $20 for a one liter bottle of some of the pricier brands.

But why pay for something that's available free or at very little cost from the kitchen tap? Why not just drink tap water or bring your own water in a convenient container?

Paying for Taste

Depending on where you live, it comes down, quite literally, to personal taste, budget and healthy choices. There are areas where the local water supply is not drinkable or even if it is technically OK to drink, the water may have an odor or taste or look unpleasant. Even in places where the water is fine, some people just prefer bottled water.

Bottled water may have a few added minerals, carbonation, flavorings or a bit of extra energy boost that you won't find in tap water. The mouth feel of some brands, like Figi with natural silicone, or the bubbles in naturally carbonated waters, like San Pellegrino, make drinking water fun!

The response to massive advertising campaigns can make an expensive band of bottled water fly from the shelves. Major soft drink producers Pepsico (Aquafina, H2OH!, Propel, Sobe), CocaCola (Aquarius, Cumberland Gap Mountain Spring Water, Dasani, Evian, glacéau) and Nestlé Waters (Arrowhead, Deer Park, Perrier, Poland Springs, San Pellegrino, Vittle) dipping their investment toes into the billion dollar water industry have seen to that.

Besides the taste of the water there is the issue of portability. If you want to go for a morning run, it's hard to bring water from the tap. Easy to toss plastic bottles make hydrating as simple as sipping from a straw.

Of course, there's the fashion factor. Big brands are rushing to compete in the premium water market. The natural minerals from the source of the water add subtle taste differences, like the terroir of a fine wine. Water bars in trendy areas cater to fashionistas who may have taken classes from an actual water sommelier. Wine snobbery in the world of bottled waters!

Healthy... or not

Meanwhile, medical experts are divided on the issue. Health claims for bottled water are viewed as exaggerated at best. Others argue that it's better for consumers to reach for bottled water than overly-sweet, high-calorie drinks, right?

Go green enthusiasts, meanwhile, counter that every year millions of plastic water bottles waste energy in their production - and pollute the environment when they are discarded.

Further, bottled water meets a demand that would be better met with tap water carried by consumers in reusable bottles. Concerned about chlorination or trace levels of contaminants in municipal tap water? Investing in a good home water filter is probably a better and certainly less expensive alternative to bottled water.

The most compelling argument may be that municipal water systems provide water for the rich and poor. If everyone who can afford to drink bottled water switches away from tap water, what happens to the rest of the community?

Bottled Water - 'Twas Ever Thus

The bottling of water dates back to the ancient Romans who first discovered a source of mineral water in Spa, Belgium. The town's name later became synonymous with health resorts everywhere.

Spa's special water source from mountain springs was said to invigorate the body and mind.

However, modern historians usually point to the fact that minerals commonly found in over-the-counter supplements may do the same. Just think of heart-healthy potassium and magnesium, the benefits of iron for anemia, or calcium for arthritis and joint diseases.

What's In YOUR Bottled Water?

While mineral water has been traditionally more popular in Europe than elsewhere, popular U.S. spring water brands hint at the same health benefits just for being "natural".

As with any consumer product, READ THE LABEL. Some natural spring water brands are simply repackaged tap water, so look for the required "public water source" or "from a community water supply" before lugging a gallon jug to the checkout counter.

To get the maximum benefit of bottled water (besides life-giving H20), consumers should know exactly what minerals are contained in the most popular brands.

Aquafina bottled waterBelow, find a bit of background information on some of the most popular bands of bottled water along with links to full-disclosure from official Web sites or public information listings:

Aquafina - According to industry sources, the fourth leading band of bottled water in the US. In the news in 2007 for blatantly misleading consumers about its source, Pepsico's Aquafina is actually just plain old filtered tap water. The finding forced Aquafina makers to include the words "Public Water Source" (actually, the Detroit municipal reservoir) on all Aquafina labels in future. What's in it?

Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water - Natural rain and snowfall give rise to four San Bernadino Mountain springs in California, where it was first bottled in 1894. A decade later it was being shipped to Los Angeles and further points east. Nestlé Waters is the parent company. What's in it?.

Evian mineral analysisCrystal Geyser - First originating in the mountains of California and Nevada, they have since expanded to other natural spring sources found in South Carolina and Tennessee. What's in it?

Deer Park - First produced from the Deer Park spring in Maryland in 1873 where - along with its swimming pool and Turkish baths - pure mountain water attracted the rich and famous to the Deer Park hotel resort. Nestlé Waters is the parent company. What's in it?

Evian - One of the more heavily advertised European brands to enter the American market, Evian gets its natural spring water from Source Cachat on the Vinzier Plateau in France. In 2007, two new bottles for use in restaurants were introduced -- one made of PET for the USA and one made of glass for Europe. Coca-Cola is the parent company. What's in it?

Fiji Natural Artesian Water - First bottled for guests at the exclusive Wakaya Club in the Fiji islands, then launched as a brand in the later 90's in a distinctive square bottle and hibiscus flower logo. High silica content lends a smooth "mouth feel" and flavor while aiding in bone and joint health. But is it worth the extra cost? Fans say so. What's in it?

Perrier - Today, the very name evokes sophistication, but its source has lied deep within the the earth below Vergeze, France for millions of years. Naturally carbonated, extra fizz is provided by injection with carbon monoxide gas. Nestlé Waters is the parent company. What's in it?

Perrier mineral analysisPoland Spring - It was first bottled in the 19th century, after seriously ill Maine innkeeper Joseph Ricker drank from a nearby natural spring and was restored to perfect health. Or so the legend goes. Today, Poland Spring comes in both still and sparkling versions. Nestlé Waters is the parent company. What's in it?

San Pellegrino - The famous Italian brand gets its source from deep springs found in the mountains of Northern Italy, and worldwide can be commonly found in most food stores or served in Italian eateries. Nestlé Waters is the parent company. What's in it?

Vittel - The source lies deep beneath a sandstone aquifer in the Vosges Mountains in France, where mineral content and trace elements are said to to have restorative powers to the intestinal and digestive system. Nestlé Waters is the parent company. What's in it?

Volvic - Named for the gray volcanic rock from which it emerges from the Clairvic Spring in France. What's in it?

More about bottled water around the Web:

Drinking Water Information - Bottled Water or Tap Water?

Bottled Waters of the World (rated)

Bottled Water FAQ

International Bottled Water Assn.

also see in Go Green -> Water Conservation

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