Yes, Bottled Water Costs More than Gas–Much, Much More
Water is such a precious resource that it has been referred to as “liquid gold.” In recent years, bottled beverage companies have taken advantage of the scarcity status of water to market and popularize bottled water. To get consumers to jump on the bottled water bandwagon, these bottled water companies have placed their water in its own category of “premium water”, with advertising campaigns that suggest their water is “spring water” or “mountain water” and cleaner and purer than municipal tap water.
In fact, according to the site Food and Water Watch, as much as 48.7% of bottled water actually comes from municipal tap water. Popular and “premium” bottled water brands such as Dasani and Aquafina, are actually tap water. Six years ago, PepsiCo. Inc., the makers of Aquafina, even admitted that this water brand came from tap water and announced that they would re-label their bottles to state as such that it came from a public water source.
It is interesting to note also that when people are given taste tests of bottled water versus tap water, the latter is frequently chosen as the one that has better taste. Showtime TV once did a study on water drinkers in New York and gave them a blind taste test, where an overwhelmingly majority of them, 75%, chose the tap water over the bottled water:
In the U.S., tap water is federally regulated under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and is tested for dangerous contaminants, whereas bottled water is not as stringently regulated under the jurisdiction of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as previously written about in a Zuvo Water blog post.
Thus the quality of bottled water certainly doesn’t justify its high cost, if most of it comes from tap water, which usually costs just pennies to consume.
It is shocking to find for instance, that a gallon of bottled water costs more than 2x a gallon of gas. A gallon of gas currently averages about $3.50-$4.00. In order to fill up a car that has a 15-gallon tank, it would cost about $60.
A liter of bottled water averages about $2.50 from a convenience store. A gallon is made up of 3.79 liters, which means that a gallon of bottled water would cost about $10. Thus if one were to fill up a 15-gallon tank car with water, it would cost $150 total, versus $60 total for filling it up with gas.
According to the EPA, the $2.50 spent on a liter of bottled water would pay for about 1,000 gallons of tap water. Bottled water companies are making huge profits by drawing water from public water sources, putting it in plastic containers, and reselling it at thousands of times the price of regular tap.
At the $10 per gallon rate, bottled water also costs more than a gallon of milk (which can range anywhere from $3-$8), as well as more than an entire 12-pack of beer, the world’s most widely consumed alcoholic beverage.
People will cite the convenience of bottled water as the main reason why they buy and consume it, as it is easy to pick up at a store, gas station, convenience mart, etc. Tap water is catching up to this convenience angle. Water bottle refill stations are beginning to make their way onto U.S. universities, into airports, and in parks around cities. Since 2010 for instance, San Francisco has installed outdoor water bottle refilling stations (“tap stations”) around the city to provide everyone with access to its high quality tap water while on the go. The tap stations enable one to reuse their own container rather than purchase costly single-use bottled water.
Once the convenience of tap water catches up, it will be hard to justify paying 1,000 times and up the cost of tap water for bottled water.
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