Bottled water is the alternative that most people think of first when they discover or even suspect that their tap water may be contaminated. Many people drink bottled water today simply because they prefer the taste to that of tap water. In 1985, $998 million worth of bottled water was sold in the United States, with California accounting for half of the market. This represents a 15% compounded annual growth since 1980. The majority of bottled water is delivered directly to the consumer in five gallon containers, while some of the market share is now going to the small bottle market in retail outlets. The public is becoming more concerned about water pollution and as a result bottled water consumption is growing at 15% per year. Bottled water, costing up to $1.50 per gallon, compared to "free tap water", is a clear indication of how the public feels about what they are drinking.
In the state of California, for example, one consumer in three drinks bottle water. Not all bottled water comes directly from "mountain fresh" streams. Many bottled water companies today process the water they sell. This trend should favour point of use manufacturers in that they enhance public awareness and as a worst scenario, provides the evidence that it is safer to drink processed water than "fresh" water.
When the EPA took a survey of 25 water bottling facilities in 1986, the results of the survey were startling. None of the 25 bottlers of water had ever had a complete analysis of their water. The EPA judged that bacteriological surveillance was inadequate in most cases and 8% of the water tested showed evidence of some bacteria. Sanitation was also determined to be a problem in many of the facilities. Plastic bottles arrived at bottlers without caps in cardboard boxes. They were not washed or rinsed before being filled. Bottle caps are often placed on by hand, further exposing the water to contaminants. For the sake of taste, bottled water may be a good solution but, for the sake of safety, its benefits are debatable. What then is the solution to this ever increasing complex problem
Deficiencies in bottling firms surveillance, facilities and their operation and plant quality control result in the production of bottled water whose quality does not comply with the 1962 U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards.
The pilot survey of 25 bottling establishments and bacteriological and chemical examination of approximately 50 bottled water products revealed the following:
|Point of Sale, Bulky, Heavy||Point of Use|
|Water Quality May be Unregulated||Water Quality Tailored to Needs|
|Water Source May be Untested||Working With Known Source|
|Impurities Can Invade the Bottle||Self Protected Systems|
|Handling Dangers Increase||No Handling|
|Inconvenient Loss of Space to Dispensers||Dedicated Faucet, Hidden Systems|
|Storage Required||Requires No Storage (exc RO, Dist)|
|High Cost Per Gallon||Pennies per Gallon|
|Monthly Purchase Administration Costs||Once Time Ownership|
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