March 20, 2007

Some Facts About Bottled Water in the United States

ALEXANDRIA, VA-World Water Day 2007 (March 22) calls attention to the critical need to protect and sustain water resources and "highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at both international and local levels," according to the World Water Day web site ( This global appreciation of water also recognizes the fact that all consumer products use water as an ingredient or in production, including foods and beverages. And, as the world considers how to balance the many roles and uses of water with sound water management policies, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) encourages an understanding of the important role of bottled water.

IBWA encourages consumers to consider these facts about bottled water:

Bottled Water and the Environment

  • Annual bottled water production accounts for less than 2/100 of a percent (0.02%) of the total ground water withdrawn in the United States each year. The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of ground water to produce this important consumer product-and does so with great efficiency.
  • Visit the web site of the Drinking Water Research Foundation ( for a study summary of the report, "Bottled Water Production in the United States: How Much Ground Water is Actually Being Used?"
  • The bottled water industry is one of among thousands of food, beverage and commercial water users. Bottled Water companies actively support comprehensive ground water management practices that are science-based, treat all users equitably, multi-jurisdictional, and provide for future needs of this important resource.
  • In the event of drought or other water supply challenges, bottlers can adjust their water withdrawal to mitigate adverse impacts on a water resource. However, the industry is just one small piece of the puzzle and other water users must adopt the same protective measures to help ensure adequate resources for all.
  • Even though it is a small ground water user, the bottled water industry has been instrumental in encouraging states to develop comprehensive, science-based ground water management and sustainability policies and laws.
  • Consumers should be aware that bottled water containers are fully recyclable and should be properly recycled through whatever system a local municipality has in place. In fact, all bottled water containers--whether plastic, glass or aluminum--are recyclable, where recycling facilities exist. IBWA actively supports comprehensive curbside recycling programs and partners with other beverage and food companies, municipalities, and the recycling industry and seeks to educate consumers about recycling and work to increase all recycling to reduce litter.
  • The larger bottles found on some home and office bottled water coolers can be sanitized and re-used an average of 75 times before the bottled water company removes them from the marketplace and recycles them. That is why the bottled water industry is considered one of the "original recyclers."

Global Water Availability

  • While governments and the private sector work to find solutions to provide clean drinking water in underserved communities throughout the world, bottled water can be an efficient and cost effective means of delivering
  • A growing number of bottled water companies are designating a portion of their income to support global programs, which help create long term solutions for the provision of water for drinking, sanitation and hygiene in underserved and developing communities.

Bottled Water and Emergency Response

  • IBWA and the bottled water industry stand ready to participate in the development of solutions to better enable federal, state and local emergency response agencies to act with greater efficiency and speed with regard to bottled water distribution and coordination in emergency relief operations. The bottled water industry has provided millions of bottled water servings in response to Hurricane Katrina, events of September 11, 2001, the tsunami in Asia, and countless other emergencies that have interrupted the delivery of safe drinking water. IBWA's broad-ranging expertise can help government officials better understand the issues involved as they attempt to create a more workable system.
  • IBWA also serves as a critical information source for members-and the public for that matter-who are seeking to provide bottled water emergency relief supplies to communities in the wake of natural disasters or other emergencies. The IBWA web site hosts the "IBWA Emergency Response Directory (ERD)," which contains a list of national, regional, and local organizations and government agencies. Individuals and organizations interested in providing emergency bottled water relief supplies can use the ERD navigate successfully the proper channels and help those in need. IBWA will work to update this document on a regular basis and welcomes updated or corrections to listings. The ERD is posted on the public portion of the IBWA web site and provide direct web links to relevant agencies and organizations, where possible.

Bottled Water Regulations and Safety

  • Bottled water is comprehensively regulated as a packaged food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water's consistent safety, quality and good taste. By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tap water standards. FDA requires bottled water to comply with bottled water-specific standards as well as regulations required of all food products.
  • Bottled water products are required to comply at all times with FDA Standards of Quality. As with other food products, bottled water is subject to the food adulteration and misbranding requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and is subject to the full array of FDA enforcement actions including warning letters, civil (seizure and/or injunction) and criminal penalties. As with other food products, bottled water may be recalled from the marketplace.
  • Similar to the EPA system for tap water, FDA helps ensure regulatory compliance through its partnerships with local and regional FDA offices as well as through state regulatory agencies. EPA itself does not, as a matter of routine practice, conduct tests on tap water treatment plants. However, like EPA, FDA maintains the authority to test product and conduct plant inspections at any time.
  • In addition to federal and state regulations, IBWA members are required to adhere to standards in the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which in several cases are stricter than FDA, EPA, and state bottled water regulations. The IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is enforced through a mandatory, annual, unannounced plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.
  • With much attention focused on the safety and security of the nation's food supply, the bottled water industry has elevated its efforts to provide consumers with a safe, high quality product. The numerous federal and state regulations and standards already in place, coupled with the bottled water industry's use of enhanced learning and security systems to help ensure the safety and security of our products, mean that consumers can trust and rely upon their bottled water.

Bottled Water Quality Information

  • The bottled water industry strongly believes that consumers should be able to obtain information about the safety and quality of bottled water in a timely fashion. By law, FDA requires all food product labels, including bottled water, to include the name and address of the manufacturer, packer or distributor. In addition, virtually all bottled water products in the commercial marketplace include a telephone number on the label.
  • With regard to providing consumers with bottled water quality information, FDA on August 25, 2000 published in the Federal Register, the "FDA Final Study Report: Feasibility of Appropriate Methods of Informing Consumers of the Contents of Bottled Water." FDA concluded that not all information provided by law by public water systems is applicable to bottled water and that certain content information already found on bottled water labels - combined with the consumer's access to company contact information on the label - are reliable means of providing information to the consumer.
  • Based on current bottled water labeling requirements and regulation, there is no public health or public policy basis to single out bottled water from other food products for additional label reporting or methods of reporting.
  • Consumers are choosing bottled water based on the merits of its consistent safety, quality, convenience, and good taste. Bottled water marketing and advertising does not undermine consumer confidence in tap water. Rather, it focuses on the benefits of choosing water for hydration and the attributes of a specific brand.

Why Consumers Choose Bottled Water

  • Some groups have sought to frame drinking water issues as a "bottled water versus tap water debate" and that confuses consumers.
  • Consumers are not uniformly replacing their public drinking water with bottled water; rather they are choosing bottled water over the other beverages available at the store and home. Consumers across the United States choose bottled water as an alternative to other packaged beverages when they want to avoid or moderate calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients. Or, they choose bottled water because they are not always satisfied with the aesthetic qualities (e.g., taste, odor, color) of their tap water. There are thousands of public water systems across the US, most of which are succeeding; but others are faced with occasional "challenges," emergencies, or natural events that may cause service interruptions.
  • Many consumers likely drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances. It does not, however, always amount to a tap versus bottled water choice.

Bottled Water Container Safety

  • Bottled water is but one of thousands of beverage and food products packaged in plastic and satisfies consumer demands for the safety and convenience of packaged food and drinks.
  • All plastics (and other materials) intended for contact with foods or beverages, including bottled water, are regulated by FDA to help assure their safety. The materials used in all bottled water containers are shown to be safe through extensive laboratory testing.
  • FDA comprehensively regulates the safety of food, including bottled water, by carefully reviewing food and beverage packaging materials before allowing them on the market. As part of its review, FDA assesses the migration potential of plastics and the substances with which they are made.
  • FDA allows food-contact plastics for their intended use based on safety data. The process includes stringent requirements for estimating the levels at which such materials may transfer to the diet. FDA's safety criteria require extensive toxicity testing for any substance that may be ingested at more than negligible levels. This means FDA has affirmatively determined that, when plastics are used as intended in food-contact applications, the nature and amount of substances that may migrate, if any, are safe.

Bottled Water and Fluoride

  • The bottled water industry provides both fluoridated and non-fluoridated brands to provide consumers with choice, quality and convenience. A number of IBWA member companies produce fluoridated bottled water for consumers who want fluoride in their drinking water and wish to choose bottled water. For a list of IBWA member companies that produce fluoridated bottled water, visit the IBWA web site at
  • There is no correlation between the increased consumption of bottled water and an increase in cavities. In fact, bottled water does not contain ingredients that cause cavities and is often a replacement for beverages and foods that may contribute to poor dental health.
  • There are many sources of fluoride, and the amount of fluoride exposure varies greatly by community and individual. Consumers should look at how much fluoride they are receiving as part of an overall diet and should contact their health care provider or dental care provider for their recommendation. Too much exposure to fluoride can lead to a condition called fluorosis, which results in stains to the teeth.
  • The American Dental Association (ADA) on November 9, 2006 released an interim guidance document on the use of fluoridated bottled water. The "Interim Guidance on Fluoride Intake for Infants and Young Children" clearly did not advise against the use of bottled water containing fluoride. It recommended that consumers who choose to feed infants using liquid concentrate or powdered infant formula and wish to use bottled water select a brand that is "fluoride free or contains low levels of fluoride." This guidance was offered for parents of infants-defined as children ages 12 months and younger-and did not advise against serving bottled water with fluoride to children older than one year. ADA also clearly stated that, "The occasional use of water containing optimal levels of fluoride should not appreciably increase a child's risk for fluorosis."

For more facts about bottled water regulations, safety and other reasons for consumer bottled water choice, visit Consumers have a right to information that may help them make balanced decisions about their drinking water and beverage choices