Chapter 5


Bottled water is the alternative that most people think of first when they discover or even suspect that their tap water may be contaminated. Many people drink bottled water today simply because they prefer the taste to that of tap water. In 1985, $998 million worth of bottled water was sold in the United States, with California accounting for half of the market. This represents a 15% compounded annual growth since 1980. The majority of bottled water is delivered directly to the consumer in five gallon containers, while some of the market share is now going to the small bottle market in retail outlets. The public is becoming more concerned about water pollution and as a result bottled water consumption is growing at 15% per year. Bottled water, costing up to $1.50 per gallon, compared to "free tap water", is a clear indication of how the public feels about what they are drinking.

In the state of California, for example, one consumer in three drinks bottle water. Not all bottled water comes directly from "mountain fresh" streams. Many bottled water companies today process the water they sell. This trend should favour point of use manufacturers in that they enhance public awareness and as a worst scenario, provides the evidence that it is safer to drink processed water than "fresh" water.


When the EPA took a survey of 25 water bottling facilities in 1986, the results of the survey were startling. None of the 25 bottlers of water had ever had a complete analysis of their water. The EPA judged that bacteriological surveillance was inadequate in most cases and 8% of the water tested showed evidence of some bacteria. Sanitation was also determined to be a problem in many of the facilities. Plastic bottles arrived at bottlers without caps in cardboard boxes. They were not washed or rinsed before being filled. Bottle caps are often placed on by hand, further exposing the water to contaminants. For the sake of taste, bottled water may be a good solution but, for the sake of safety, its benefits are debatable. What then is the solution to this ever increasing complex problem

Deficiencies in bottling firms surveillance, facilities and their operation and plant quality control result in the production of bottled water whose quality does not comply with the 1962 U.S. Public Health Service Drinking Water Standards.

The pilot survey of 25 bottling establishments and bacteriological and chemical examination of approximately 50 bottled water products revealed the following:

  1. Eight percent of the bottled water samples examined evidenced the presence of the coliform organism which is an indicator of the potential presence of pathogenic bacteria. High standard plate counts gave additional evidence of contamination.
  2. Gross changes in standard plate counts were noted in the 25 samples that are examined during a 63 day storage test.
  3. Discrepancies were found between the actual chemical composition and that stated or implied on the label.
  4. Quality control measures were generally deficient in the bacteriological and chemical analyses of the bottled water and were not regularly performed. Bacteriological surveillance was judged inadequate of finished water.
  5. None of the 25 bottlers ever reported having a complete chemical analysis of their bottled water. Laboratory control data revealed a virtual complete lack of source water testing or chemical analyses of finished water.
  6. Based on criteria covering eight sanitation categories, it was found that in many cases bottling was not performed under sanitary conditions. Sanitary deficiencies were found in all facilities surveyed.
  7. Plastic bottles arrive at the plant in cardboard cartons and are shipped without the caps, thus the interiors are exposed to airborne contaminants and the presence of foreign matter. Yet, these bottles are presumed by the bottlers to be sanitary enough to be filled without even being rinsed.
  8. Glass bottles are usually washed with a hot caustic solution but the temperatures or strength of the caustic solution is seldom monitored. Bottle caps are sometimes used directly from the packages, seldom disinfected and mostly placed on by hand.
  9. The significance of employee sanitation and facility maintenance is that the product water is subject to contamination from the physical surroundings and the people.
  10. In some cases labelling of bottled water did not correspond with the contents revealed by chemical analysis. Results revealed trace amounts of minerals, chemicals and bacteria.




Point of Sale, Bulky, Heavy Point of Use
Contract Subscription Ownership
Water Quality May be Unregulated Water Quality Tailored to Needs
Water Source May be Untested Working With Known Source
Impurities Can Invade the Bottle Self Protected Systems
Handling Dangers Increase No Handling
Inconvenient Loss of Space to Dispensers Dedicated Faucet, Hidden Systems
Storage Required Requires No Storage (exc RO, Dist)
High Cost Per Gallon Pennies per Gallon
Monthly Purchase Administration Costs Once Time Ownership

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