Commentary: How the bottled water industry is masking the global water crisis

2 months ago 32

TORONTO: Bottled water is one of the world’s most popular beverages, and its industry is making the most of it. Since the millennium, the world has advanced significantly towards the goal of safe water for all.

In 2020, 74 per cent of humanity had access to safe water. This is 10 per cent more than two decades ago. But that still leaves two billion people without access to safe drinking water.

Meanwhile, bottled water corporations exploit surface water and aquifers — typically at very low cost — and sell it for 150 to 1,000 times more than the same unit of municipal tap water. The price is often justified by offering the product as an absolute safe alternative to tap water.

But bottled water is not immune to all contamination, considering that it rarely faces the rigourous public health and environmental regulations that public utility tap water does.

In our recently published study, which studied 109 countries, it was concluded that the highly profitable and fast-growing bottled water industry is masking the failure of public systems to supply reliable drinking water for all.

The industry can undermine progress of safe-water projects, mostly in low- and middle-income countries, by distracting development efforts and redirecting attention to a less reliable, less affordable option.


The fast-growing bottled water industry also impacts the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) in many ways.

The latest UN University report revealed that the annual sales of the global bottled water market...

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