We’re not always pessimists on Consumerist. Why, sometimes we actually like silver linings, if only because it gives us a chance to complain about argyria. (Don’t take colloidal silver, people!) Today’s silver lining is that sales of bottled water “have fallen for the first time in at least five years,” says the Los Angeles Times. We’re apparently showing common sense and opting for tap water over branded and labeled water, proving that in a tough economy it’s hard to compete with (nearly) free.
“It’s an obvious way to cut back,” said Joan Holleran, director of research for market research firm Mintel. “People might still be buying bottled water, but you can bet that they’re refilling those bottles.”
The news delighted environmentalists, who have long berated the industry for wasting natural resources and stuffing landfills with plastic bottles. “I thought we’d never be able to impact sales of bottled water, and all of a sudden it’s really gained momentum,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of advocacy group Food & Water Watch. “I think we’re making real progress.”
We think it’s more likely that a lot of consumers who buy bottled water have started to figure out that:
- It’s hugely expensive—a back of the envelope estimate puts it at 5 cents an ounce versus less than 1 cent per gallon from a municipal water supply;
- It might be loaded with bad things you don’t want to ingest, like disinfection byproducts, fertilizer residue, and pain medication;
- It has less safety oversight than plain old tap water, which is why bottlers don’t have to tell you where the water came from or what’s actually in it.