Alexandria, VA – The members of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) are proud to support World Water Day 2015 and recognize the importance of a safe and sustainable water supply. The theme for this year’s World Water Day, celebrated annually on March 22, is “Water and Sustainable Development.” This United Nations sponsored event is held every year to focus attention on the importance of fresh water, and to advocate the sustainable management of fresh water resources.
“Sustainable, protected, and naturally recharged water sources are the single most important aspect of our business. This commitment to environmental excellence holds true wherever bottled water facilities are located,” says Chris Hogan, IBWA’s vice president of communications. “IBWA supports the smart and responsible management of the world’s water resources. Cooperation on effective groundwater management requires a multijurisdictional approach that involves many parties, including bottled water companies, scientists, consumers, environmentalists, and regulators.”
Promoting greater consumption of water from all sources, including bottled water, will support the efforts of communities striving for a healthier lifestyle. And, for those who want to eliminate or moderate calories, sugar, caffeine, artificial flavors or colors, and other ingredients from their diet, selecting water is the right option – whether from the tap or in a bottle.
A Responsible Environmental Advocate
The bottled water industry recognizes the importance of protecting the quantity and quality of the world’s water. Bottled water companies that produce groundwater products (e.g., spring water, artesian water) are entirely dependent upon a safe, fresh supply of constantly recharged and replenished water for their livelihood. In addition, IBWA supports strong municipal water systems since bottled water companies that produce purified water often use municipal water sources. Once the municipal source water enters a bottled water plant, several processes, including reverse osmosis, deionization, and filtration, are employed to ensure that it meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) purified water standard. Bottled water companies responsibly manage and monitor their source waters and oversee bottled water production in an environmentally focused process.
“The bottled water industry continues to demonstrate solid environmental leadership when it comes to water conservation and efficiency. Bottled water companies utilize and manage water resources in a highly efficient and responsible manner by investing in broadly accepted science and technology to improve water quality, and strengthening water conservation practices,” says Hogan.
In many parts of the world, clean safe water is unavailable or only available in limited quantities, even in stable periods without an over-arching natural disaster. While governments and the private sector work to find permanent solutions to provide clean drinking water in underserved communities around the world, bottled water, combined with other solutions such as filtration and bulk filling stations, is an efficient and effective means of delivering clean, sanitary drinking water where insufficient or non-existent water delivery infrastructure poses life-threatening problems. In addition, a growing number of bottled water companies are designating a portion of their income to support global programs, which help create long term solutions for the provision of water for drinking, sanitation and hygiene in underserved and developing communities.
A Small Water User
Annual bottled water production accounts for less than 0.02 percent of the total groundwater withdrawn in the United States each year. Even though it is a minimal groundwater user and is only one of among thousands of food, beverage, and commercial water users, the bottled water industry actively supports comprehensive ground water management policies that are science-based, multi-jurisdictional, treat all users equitably, and provide for future needs of this important resource.
“Even with continuing growth and increased consumption, bottled water still has the smallest water and energy use footprint of any packaged beverage,” says Hogan. “The results of a 2014 IBWA benchmarking study show that the amount of water and energy used to produce bottled water products in North America is less than all other types of packaged beverages. On average, only 1.32 liters of water (including the liter of water consumed) and 0.24 mega joules of energy are used to produce one liter of finished bottled water,” he added.
To help tell this important story, IBWA recently released an infographic video, “Bottled Water – Small Water Use With Big Health Benefits.” The video compares the water use footprint of bottled water to other industries and beverages. Citing data from the U.S. Geological Survey, the video illustrates that bottled water uses less than 0.004 percent of all the water in the U.S., while irrigation uses 31 percent and thermoelectric power uses 49 Percent.
To put it in context, the entire U.S. bottled water market is about 11 billion gallons; New York City goes through that amount of tap water in one week.
A Small Environmental Footprint
In 2009, IBWA commissioned a life cycle inventory (LCI) by Franklin Associates to determine the environmental footprint of the United States bottled water industry. The results show that the bottled water industry has an extremely small environmental footprint.
Bottled water’s environmental footprint is the lowest of any packaged beverage according to a life cycle assessment conducting by Quantis in 2010. Moreover, data from the Beverage Marketing Corporation (BMC) shows that between 2000 and 2011, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce (half-liter) PET plastic bottled water container has declined 47.8 percent. This has resulted in a savings of 3.3 billion pounds of PET resin since 2000. In fact, many bottled water companies are already using recycled plastic in their bottles and some are producing 100 percent recycled PET water bottles.
Of all the plastics produced in the U.S., PET plastic bottled water packaging makes up only 0.92 percent; less than one percent. Moreover, data derived from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) figures demonstrates that plastic water bottles make up less than one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream.
All bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable, and the national recycling rate for PET plastic bottled water containers is 37.04 percent. Despite significant lightweighting over the last few years, PET plastic bottled water containers continue to be the most frequently recycled PET beverage container in curbside recycling programs. In addition, 3- and 5-gallon plastic bottled water containers are reused between 30-50 times before being recycled.
Consumers across the United States choose bottled water because it is a healthy, refreshing beverage. Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the FDA as a packaged food product and it provides a consistently safe and reliable source of drinking water. Bottled water has its own stringent FDA manufacturing standards governing its safety, purity and labeling. And, by federal law, the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the EPA standards that govern tap water. And, in some very important cases like lead, coliform bacteria, and E. coli, bottled water regulations are substantially more stringent than EPA standards for tap.