Bottled Water & Water Use

The bottled water industry has a long and deeply-held tradition of effectively and responsibly protecting and managing our vital natural resources. Sustainable, protected, and naturally recharged water sources are the single most important aspect of our business. This commitment to environmental excellence holds true wherever bottled water facilities are located.

As various parts of the United States face periodic droughts, the International Bottled Water Association and its members remain committed to the responsible and efficient use of all natural resources related to bottled water production. Our industry is proud to continuously be on the forefront of water conservation and management, the efficient use of water, and responsibly managing groundwater and spring water resources.

IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT WATER USE

Bottled water accounts for less than 0.01% of all the water used in the United States each year. Despite the bottled water industry's size, the amount of water used is relatively tiny compared to tap water volumes.

  • Put into context, in 2015, total annual U.S. bottled water consumption was 11.7 billion gallons. Los Angeles goes through that amount of tap water in a little over three-and-half weeks. (Los Angeles Department of Water and Power: total 2014-2015 DWP annual water sales for Los Angeles is 167 billion gallons. Divided by 52 weeks, that equals 3.2 billion gallons per week. Three-and-a-half weeks equals 11.2 billion gallons.)
     
  • According to the United States Geological Society, at almost 45%, thermoelectric power is the largest user of water in the U.S., followed by irrigation at 32%.
     
  • Consumers are not buying bottled water because of elaborate marketing campaigns; they are choosing bottled water instead of less healthy packaged beverages. Most people who drink bottled water also drink tap water, and that’s fine with us. Water is the healthiest beverage, and bottled water provides consumers with a safe, convenient, refreshing, and responsible choice.
     
  • The bottled water industry complies with local and state regulatory framework, which applies to other water users in the same class, and will continue to do so.

BOTTLED WATER IS A VERY EFFICIENT WATER USER

While overall sales growth and consumption of bottled water has increased as consumers choose water instead of less healthy sugared beverages, bottled water still has the smallest water and energy footprint of any packaged beverage. The results of a 2014 IBWA benchmarking study show that the amount of water and energy used to produce bottled water products in North America is less than all other types of packaged beverages. On average, only 1.32 liters of water (including the liter of water consumed) and 0.24 mega joules of energy are used to produce one liter of finished bottled water.

  • With bottled water having the lowest energy and water use of all packaged beverages, this healthy choice trend is actually reducing the overall beverage environmental footprint, equating to 6.4 billion gallons of water saved each year.
     
  • 100% of bottled water is intended for human consumption, one of the most important and efficient uses of water. Conversely, only about 2% of tap water is used for human consumption. A vast majority of municipally sourced water is used in agriculture, households, and for industrial applications.
     
  • The fact is that bottled water production is among the smallest and most efficient of all industry water users.

BOTTLED WATER IS HIGHLY REGULATED

Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a food product. Tap water is regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By federal law, FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water are as stringent as the EPA standards for tap water. And, in some very important cases like lead, bottled water regulations are substantially more stringent than EPA standards for tap.

MOST BOTTLED WATER IS LOCAL

Despite what some bottled water critics claim, the fact is most of the bottled water from an area’s sources is sold in that area. It is simply not part of the U.S. bottled water industry’s usual business model to ship bottles of water thousands of miles from where it is produced due to high transportation costs.

Bottled water plants are located across the country and produce bottled water for customers in that area. This map shows the location of all IBWA’s member company bottled water plants, which are located throughout the United States and primarily serve customers in their local and regional markets.

AMERICANS ARE MAKING HEALTHIER CHOICES

After years of increased soft drink consumption, American’s growing preference for bottled water has helped people find a path back to water as a healthier beverage of choice. Today people are drinking much more water than soft drinks and consumption of both tap water and bottled water are growing.

The bottled water industry supports a strong public water system, which is important for providing citizens with clean and safe drinking water. In fact, many bottled water companies use public water sources for their purified bottled water products. However, purified bottled water is not just tap water in a bottle. Once this water enters the bottled water plant, several processes are employed to ensure that it meets the FDA purified water standard. These treatments may include one or more of the following: reverse osmosis, distillation, micro-filtration, carbon filtration, ozonation, and ultraviolet (UV) light. The finished water product is then placed in a bottle under sanitary conditions and sold to the consumer.