FastCompany has an in-depth look at the economics of the bottled water industry. It looks at the distribution costs and environmental impact of shipping water 2/3s of the way around the world to places where you can just open the tap and get clean, safe water. (Kudos to the reporter for snagging a boondoggle to Fiji for the story!)
The market is huge, as is the environmental impact. From the FastCompany story:
- Americans spent $15 billion last year on bottled water
- 50 billion plastic water bottles were thrown away last year
- 1 billion bottles of water are moved around each week in the U.S. on ships, trains and trucks
Much of the bottled water we buy isn’t spring water – it’s purified tap water. Aquafina (from Pepsi) accounts for 13% of the market and Dasani (from Coke) is 11%. Both get their water from city water supplies and further purify it.
As much as we love to complain about the price of gasoline, most bottled water is more expensive per gallon.
The picture below (via Chris Sacca) illustrates the amount of oil it takes to transport the bottles to the Bay Area of California. The water comes from Calistoga, Ca., France and New Zealand.
Water does taste different around the world. I’m not a big fan of the taste of Arlington’s tap water. After visiting Iceland, I’ve been buying Iceland Spring water. But this picture is making me rethink that.
Update: The Twitter blog reports that Twitter is largely doing away with bottled water in its offices.