The bottled water industry has grown exponentially over the years and multinational brands like Aquafina (Pepsi), Evian, Dasani (coke), Pure Life (Nestle) and Fiji Water are making billions of dollars of profits annually. These companies cater to a very large and growing market of consumers around the world (Karslen et al. 191). Western Europe is the biggest market for bottled water which is responsible for the 50 per cent of the total global sales of bottled water each year (Napier and Kodner 800). US accounts for the second highest percentage of consumption of bottled water (Jukes 20). This is an ironic fact as tap water which fulfils the same purpose is available to people for consumption in a far more convenient fashion and for far less money. The consumers are driven towards consumption of bottled water because of their concerns for health and safety (Dana 380). Private brand labels of bottled water have convinced consumers using findings of studies that tap water is impure and holds the potential to harm health. They promise clean, pure and fresh water to consumers with an exchange of a high retail price. The question that arises is whether consumers are getting the value for money (Napier and Kodner 800). Studies conducted recently have shown evidence that bottled water falls short of the expectations of the consumers and is far riskier to consume than tap water (Badr et al. 210). As shocking as this statement sounds, there exists solid evidence of the fact that consumers are being exploited and ripped off with the water sold in bottles that not only has impurities but also is the source of environmental destruction through the hands of the consumers.
Bottled water companies have created a culture of consumerism that has established deep roots of fears associated with tap water. The consumers are convinced that tap water is harmful to their health. Owing to the culture of consumerism and perceptions of buyers, what is expensive has more value for money and despite of the decrease in the disposable incomes of buyers, they are not ready to settle low for their health (Napier and Kodner 801). Bottled water companies have achieved this status of supremacy in the global market through extensive social marketing initiatives aimed at public awareness of the harms of tap water, following by mind and heart opening advertisement campaigns, the focus of which has been long tied with public health and safety concerns (Dana 382). Their drive, however, has been throughout for profit maximization, like any other form of private business. To ensure the safety and purity in water, extensive financial investments in water testing and purification are required. Companies transfer this cost onto consumers by charging high prices for their brands with the promise of clean and pure water (Napier and Kodner 802). However, consumers may not always get what they have paid highly and dearly for.
Where tap water supply, under the control of the municipal government, is processed through water purification plants and is checked by Federal Testing Authority for its constituents, the testing and purification of bottled water is not transparent as private companies do not disclose their plant addresses let alone quality assurance reports (Jukes 22). The evidence they provide to convince consumers of the quality and value-added benefits of bottled water come in the form of advertising and promotional campaigns that allows them to stay profitable (Karlsen et al. 190). This raises concerns for their accountability and responsibly towards providing consumers with pure and clean water as promised. According to Food and Water Watch, bottled water sold by private companies provides only 59 per cent purified water, while the remaining constituent is spring or mineral water that is neither tested nor purified prior to packaging (Badr et al., 211). In order to increase profit margins, companies try to reduce production costs as much as possible. It has been found that the main costs for bottled water companies come from packaging and delivery, where they save tremendous amounts of costs by cutting down entirely on purification and testing processes. The marketing communications delivered to consumers is used instead to attract consumers to purchase the bottled water, which is home to hidden impurities, and pay thousand times more for it than they do for tap water.
Tap water too is not isolated from contamination. It too contains traces of iron and bacteria contaminations and in under-developed and developing countries. People, especially in rural areas, get slightly contaminated and impure water delivered to their home. This is because of the lack of funding to install better and more water purification and testing plants. Tap water constituents, however, are fairly monitored and regularly tested and purified to provide quality water supply to the public in the US (Jukes 23). When it comes to bottled water, the contaminants are far more in quantity and in magnitude of affect on the health of the consumers. Other than bacteria contaminants, according to the tests of branded bottled water conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council in the US, bottled water was fund to hold arsenic and carcinogenic contaminants (Jukes 21). Also, FDA has reported regularly for the last fifteen years of the evidence of DEHP phthalates in bottled water, which is a plastic ingredient (Badr et al., 215).
On another note, consumers purchase bottled water from retail stores who buy in large stocks from the distributors. There is no way of knowing how long the bottles have occupied the shelves. The longer the bottle stays on the shelf, the more harmful it becomes, with impurities exponentially growing inside (Dana 383). This is something that is never noticed by consumers, as they take bottled water, like any other packaged product that holds the promises of quality and has a use and expiry date. The expiry dates on bottled water do not necessarily hold true. The perceived value held by consumers of bottled water is so great that it suppresses any concerns that they may have for the quality of the water.
Where bacteria contaminations causes diseases like typhoid, jaundice, and digestive problems, contaminations of metallic elements causes severe hormonal imbalances paving way for obesity, male infertility. These results come from the direct testing of the bottled water (Jukes 22). However, if consumers are to get affected with diseases that have resulted from the regular drinking of bottled water, they may never know that the water they drank caused their medical condition, as water is hardly every blamed unless evidence is actually “seen” either floating in the water itself or proven by medical experts.
Not only is what is inside the bottles of water is harmful for the consumers but the packaging that holds the water till it is consumed is too home to a whirlpool of environmental and health hazards. The plastic used in the bottles of water contains petroleum which not only affects the quality of water in the bottles and in turn the health of the consumers, it makes the bottles severally damaging to the environment (Napier and Kodner 802). The brands are delivered in plastic bottles that are recyclable. However, not all consumes feel the need to recycle and a large number of them throw the bottles way. These do not necessarily get back to the plants to get reused and transformed into reusable forms. Instead, the thrown-away bottles add to pollution in the form of large pile of dumps that not only produce harmful gases and odors, but also consume unnecessary space on land that could otherwise be used for a constructive and useful purpose for the benefit of the society (Karlsen et al. 191). The trashed bottles, upon piling up with other forms of dumped items, only create unpleasant sights which is undesirable for all. And the consumers of products are the ones responsible for producing and increasing the level of population in their environment. Therefore, consumers not only cause severe and fatal damage to their health, but also harm the natural sanctity of their environment and atmosphere, making the planet a much congested and unpleasant place to live.
Consumers live by the notion of ‘seeing is believing.’ Where apparent signs of impurities are negligible and the level of purity water is nothing short of impressive upon a glance, consumers only are assured of the promise of the bottled water brand. And even after consumption, if no signs of bad or weird taste are witnessed, the consumers develop brand associations and get loyal to it and go for repeat purchases. This is why the bottled water industry has grown so rapidly over a short period of time. It is only if, the consumers conduct tests themselves, or their doctors inform them of the harm they bring to themselves every day through drinking bottled water, can they be convinced of the potential time bomb that bottled water holds within itself, not only for the consumers’ health but also for the atmosphere and the environment that people live in. in this way, not only do the consumers of bottled water are affected, but also the trees, animals and the people who consume tap water, are severally affected. It is only time that people reverse their invalid perceptions of bottled water and bring their attention back to tap water which is far less harmful and more quality assured.