Fact and fiction: The truth about the bottled water industry's water use

The bottled water industry truly cares about protecting all water sources—both public water systems and groundwater aquifers.
Bottled water companies have a long and deeply held tradition of effectively and responsibly protecting and managing our vital water resources. Our critics falsely claim that the bottled water industry is significantly depleting the nation’s water supplies. However, having long-term, sustainable, protected, and naturally recharged water sources is the single-most important aspect of our business. Find out the truth about the bottled water industry’s water use by reading the information below.

False Claim: Bottled water companies drain U.S. water resources to unhealthy levels.
Fact: The bottled water industry does not deplete the nation's resources.

Setting up a bottled water plant often takes several years and costs millions of dollars. It is a decision that is made only after the water source’s sustainability and the plant’s potential environmental impact have been thoroughly analyzed. Think about it: why would a company spend millions of dollars building a bottling facility and then soon have no water available for production and no ability to sell the facility due to lack of adequate water resources?

In fact, the opposite is true. Businesses that set up bottling facilities are extremely concerned about making sure their water sources will be available for many, many years. To that end, they take steps such as buying and protecting the land area surrounding the water source and facility, monitoring and measuring water use and withdrawals, and reducing the amount of water used in production. In many cases, state or local governments set limitations on water withdrawals to protect the sources. Compared to other industries, bottled water uses a very small amount of water—just 0.011 percent of all water used in the United States and 0.02 percent of all groundwater used. In addition, bottled water uses less water than any other packaged beverage to produce.

False claim: Bottled water companies that use public water sources have low costs but make big profits.
Fact: Water purchased from a public water system for water bottling is similar to how all other food and beverage companies use this source water.

Bottled water companies that use municipal water sources pay for the water they use—just like any other commercial customer (such as soft drink and beer manufacturers, as well as the food canning industry). While bottled water companies are sometimes offered reduced pricing for their water, that practice is common for all high-volume business customers.

When public water providers offer businesses special pricing, it is because they want to sell some of their excess water supply in an effort to generate more revenue, which helps to pay for the many services a city or county provides its residents. It’s important to note that the bottled water industry is an efficient user of water in production. In fact, bottled water has the lowest water use footprint of all packaged beverages.

False claim: Bottled water companies cause droughts.
Fact: A drought is a period of drier-than-normal conditions that results in water-related problems, according to the USGS. They are not caused by bottled water companies.

People often don’t realize that water is a renewable resource. Groundwater is recharged from rain and snow, and volumes vary from state to state. Like all commercial and residential water users, bottled water companies follow government mandates to decrease water use. And, as good environmental stewards, bottled water companies often voluntarily cutback water use during droughts or water shortages. Setting up and running bottling facilities is very costly, and companies need to ensure they protect their water sources for the long term.

False claim: A majority of bottled water companies use the water in one state and then ship their products long distances to many other states.
Fact: Most water is bottled—and consumed—locally.

Trucking and shipping water long distances is time consuming and very expensive, and isn’t part of most bottled water companies’ business models. Bottled water is a highly competitive industry, and  there are hundreds of bottling plants throughout the United States that are producing bottled water that is consumed primarily in the state or local region in which it is sourced and produced.

False claim: Time limits on water-use permits are too long.
Fact: Bottling companies set up production for the long term because their research proves the resource is sustainable for the permit's length.

Bottled water companies are no different from other companies that obtain water use permits and should be treated accordingly. A government body issues water use permits based on sound science that shows the aquifer can sustain withdrawals at a certain rate per day/year for the length of the permit time. In addition, bottled water companies invest in communities—building facilities that will produce healthy hydration for the region and provide meaningful employment for its citizens for the long haul.