Why is Bottled Water So Expensive?
Switch to a reusable bottle with tap water
Sometimes you may need to buy bottled water in an emergency, but why is bottled water so expensive? Obviously it’s best to drink filtered tap water where you can. We are fortunate to have water that’s safe to drink (in blind tests, water from Thames taps beat some of the more expensive brands of bottled water). So what’s with all the high prices, just for something that should be free as a basic right?
The earth only has around 3% of its water available to drink, so it’s fairly scarce, and most of that is in glaciers. Yet 800 million people worldwide don’t have access to clean safe water, so the fact that we can turn on the tap and drink safely, is a luxury
Don’t drink from bathroom taps as they often come from different pipes – this could cause harm in susceptible people and pets, and should never be used for mixing up baby formula). In old houses, you may actually be pouring out water from tanks with dead rats in them (and boiling it does not purify it).
So why do so many people pay so much for bottled water, in countries where it’s safe to drink? Obviously the cost is from sourcing and bottling the water. But UK laws means that the water from the tap is usually as pure (or more pure) than water sold in bottles.
Can you imagine paying 2000 times the price of anything else? How about a $10,000 sandwich? Annie Leonard
Tap water in the UK has got more expensive since companies went private (in Wales, it’s still a non-profit company with the best reviews). But tap water is still dirt cheap, compared with filtered or bottled water. It works out at around 0.1p a litre (compared to 65p per litre for bottled). Obviously some people may need to drink bottled water for medical reasons. But for everyone else, filtered tap water should be fine. And although it is not perfect, unfiltered tap water should not do most people much harm.
Water UK says that our tap water is among the best in the world, with companies running 2.5 million strict tests on drinking water each year. Chlorine is used to kill some bacteria but it should not do much harm and if you just keep a jug of tap water in the fridge (covered) the taste should disappear, just refresh every 24 hours. Cloudy water is not due to being impure, but due to tiny air bubbles, for a newly running tap. If you leave the glass to stand and the water clears, you know that’s the issue, and nothing to be concerned about.
If you have a stable home and lots of money, then filtering is good. But don’t let the thought of non-filtered water scare you. Drinking safe tap water is undoubtedly better than avoiding water at all, because it’s not been filtered. In the last year or so, the bottom of the bottled water industry seems to have fallen out. COVID has seen many people’s income dwindle, programs by Sir David Attenborough have made people realise the damage of plastic bottles to our oceans, and the huge growth in sales of reusable water bottles, has many people going back to tap water, filtered or not.
One of the most expensive bottled waters is from Fiji, owned by the company that makes Pom pomegranate juice. The company enjoyed tax-exempt status until a military leader staged a coup and decided they would have to pay tax. The company laid off employees and even briefly shut down, eventually agreeing to pay tax to benefit the people that lived there. What did not sit right was that the most expensive bottled water was being flown around the world and making profits for a company that did not pay tax in Fiji, a country where 12% of residents have no access to clean safe drinking water.
Of course, most French people drink water, and a lot more of it than here. Orangina is also popular, sold in the original glass bottles (that’s a pretty good drink usually, just sparkling water, orange and sugar). Coffee is also popular. Brandy (Cognac) and Champagne are also popular, as is the liqueur Cointreau (orange).
If you are going to drink the same amount of water as the French, then choose filtered tap water, and use a reusable water bottle. Recently, Evian has been promoting its plastic bottles that are made from recycled plastic. All well and good, but if it falls down a storm drain or drops off your boat, it still kills wildlife by breaking down into microplastics. The brand is also owned by Danone, a multi-brand that uses a lot of palm oil and has been rapped on the knuckles for unethical marketing of formula in developing countries. It also owns Volvic. An ethical workers co-op it isn’t.
Many people are not fans of Evian water, due to the hardness of the water giving it not the best taste, and the higher price (one journalist once asked us to spell the brand name backwards?!) And the fact that the bottle is plastic also affects the taste. Recently, journalists and social media were up in arms, when the brand launched a designer Evian bottle that cost around 8 euros. You don’t have to be a genius to figure out why people were angry, in a world where around 800 million people don’t have access to fresh drinking water.
One critic juxtaposed a photo of the bottle with a family on a rubbish heap in India, rummaging to try to survive. Another asked ‘Can you buy it using Universal Basic Income?’