The Transparency of Water Bottle Manufacturers

Why companies aren't made to disclose water source information

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    A recent report by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) details that of the 170 bottled water brands sold in the U.S., only three companies provide consumers with information pertaining to water source, purification methods and remaining contaminants.  The report further emphasized that Nestlé’s Pure Life Purified Water is the only one of the top 10 domestic brands that readily offers this information.

    Why the ambiguity of it all?

    EWG Research Analyst Nneka Leiba explained: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the agency that regulates bottled water, does not require bottle water manufacturers to disclose the geographic source of their products on their labels or on their website.”

    Yet, oddly enough, it’s the source of the water that plays a role in contaminant levels, and that’s why activists within EWG are sounding the whistle. 

    “The source of the water and the degree to which it is or is not purified play an important role in the contaminant levels.  Pollutants may also make their way into bottled water from the plastic bottles in which many of these bottles are packaged,” said Leiba.

    Critics of the industry are also pointing fingers at the visual aspect of bottled water packaging, designed by savvy marketing executives to tout the purity of a brand.  While the images of misty waterfalls conjure up ideals of natural, virgin waters, companies are failing to clearly substantiate their claims.

    Take Fiji, for example:  on its website, the company proclaims that its water "never meets the compromised air of the 21st century nor is it touched by another human being.”

    Come again?

    “Winds that carry acid rain and pollutants to other parts of the planet just don't come [their] way," Leiba laughed.

    Meanwhile, experts are calling for action.

    "Water bottlers are clearly having difficulty reading the writing on the wall or else there would already be clearer writing on their labels," said Leslie Samuelrich, Chief of Staff for Corporate Accountability International.  "The public is calling on corporations like Coke to label the source of its water.  State governments are calling for it.  Congress is calling for it.  The longer the industry avoids transparency, the more it forces the hand of civil servants to advocate the consumer's right to know."

    Nowadays, “going green” is an easy, convenient selling point, because Americans are joining the trend of promoting healthier lifestyles and a healthier planet.  But to buy a bottle of water, ironically enough, is the antithesis of the whole concept.

    “They know they need to aggressively work to image themselves as green, since they’re selling an environmentally destructive product,” Leiba said of bottled water companies.  “They are selling a non-sustainable product at over 1,000 times its worth, damaging many ecosystems and angering many communities in the process.”

    Want to really go green, water guzzlers? 

    The EWG urges you to pour a glass of filtered tap water, instead.  After all, it points out, almost 50 percent of bottled water is straight from the tap, sometimes purified (and sometimes not).