Bottled water is water packaged for individual consumption and typically sold
in retail form. The water in such bottles can be from a wide variety of sources,
from highly processed and treated water , to natural spring water, to simply
repackaged municipal or even untreated water . In North America and Europe,
governmental standards are usually applied to ensure that water quality is safe
and labels accurately reflect the contents. In many developing countries,
however, such standards rarely exist, or are inconsistently applied.
Worldwide sales of bottled water are estimated to be between $50 and $100
billion (US) annually and increasing approximately 7 to 10 percent annually. In
2004, total sales were approximately 154 billion litres (41 billion gallons).
The sales of bottled water are increasing for many reasons. In many areas of the
world tap water is contaminated (or thought to be contaminated) with pollutants.
Some people prefer the taste of bottled water. Some people find retail bottled
water to be a convenience. And a recent increase in advertising in some
countries is making bottled water a fashion.
In regions where reliable, low-cost, and high quality tap water is not
available, bottled water may provide a safe alternative. Bottled water, however,
has some liabilities. Perhaps most important, bottled water is on average 1000
times more expensive than high-quality municipal tap water -- bottled water can
cost $US 1 per liter (or often more), while municipal tap water from urban water
agencies is typically a fraction of a penny per liter (reference Gleick 2004)
There are also environmental impacts associated with the production and disposal
of large numbers of plastic bottles, particularly in regions where plastics
recycling is either unavailable or limited. Significant amounts of energy are
also used to package and transport bottled water large distances.
In the United States, tap water is regulated by the United States Environmental
Protection Agency. Bottled water is regulated under a similar, but not precisely
the same set of regulations from the United States Food and Drug Administration
under the Federal Food, Drug,and Cosmetic Act ("FFDCA" or the "Act"), 21 U.S.C.
§ 301et seq.
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