Over the last ten years or so, sales of bottled water have been steadily increasing by 7 - 8% per annum. It's estimated that the level of global consumption more than doubled between 1997 and 2005.
Worldwide, over 200 billion bottles of water are consumed worldwide each year. The US market is by far the largest, accounting for a quarter of global sales.
Recently there has been a bit of a backlash against bottled water. One area of concern is the environmental impact of bottled water. The actual bottles are normally fabricated from Polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is certainly a recyclable material. However, the actual level of recycling is estimated to be less than 25%.
A further cause for concern amongst environmentalists is the energy required for production, transportation and disposal of the bottles. In comparison with ordinary tap water, bottled water produces carbon emissions which are three orders of magnitude higher on a per litre basis.
There seems to be no evidence that bottled water is any better for your health than plain old tap water - despite the clever advertising claims of the bottled water suppliers and distributors. Certain bottled waters have been found to contain estrogenic chemicals and even uranium. Many bottled waters contain salt to some degree- which is not good for your blood pressure.
On the subject of taste there is little firm evidence that bottled water is inherently better than tap water. In aUK blind taste test,London tap water came in third place out of a selection of 24 different types of water. InAmerica, a Penn and Teller episode from 2007 (which may have been more entertaining than scientific - but is still worthy of a mention) showed that diners couldn't tell the difference between bottled water and water poured from a garden hose.
In terms of cost to the customer the precise ratio will vary according to the brand of bottled water, but, as a rule, bottled water costs several hundred times more per litre than tap water.
So, in terms of environmental impact, health, taste and cost, bottled water really doesn't have much going for it. If you really dislike the taste of the water that comes out of your tap then you could always try some type of home filtration system. The cost will be higher than tap water, but much less than bottled water. There are various types available - whole house, undersink and simplejug type filters could all be effective.
Of course, home filtration systems are great for when you're at home - but if you like to carry water with you when you're out and about then you could use and reuse a bottle which you fill at home, or the office, before you leave. Get yourself a reusable water bottle - or recycling an old coke bottle.
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