Not So Silly Brits
I realize we always laugh at those silly Brits for having terrible food. But now they're laughing at us--because of our water. The San Francisco Chronicle's David Lazarus explains:
In early 2004, Coca-Cola launched its Dasani brand of bottled water in Britain. Dasani had already established itself as one of the most popular bottled waters in the United States.
Within weeks, however, Coke had a disaster in the making. The British press discovered that Dasani was nothing more than processed tap water and ran a series of indignant stories suggesting that consumers were being hoodwinked by the U.S. beverage giant. ... The water was quickly withdrawn from store shelves and plans were canceled to market Dasani elsewhere in Europe, which to this day remains a Dasani-free zone.
Be that as it may, most Americans are probably unaware that Dasani, like many bottled waters sold in the United States, doesn't originate from pristine mountain springs; it starts in the same pipes that run into people's kitchens.
As I reported in Wednesday's column, Americans spent an estimated $11 billion last year drinking 8.3 billion gallons of bottled water.
That means the average American consumed almost 28 gallons of Dasani, Aquafina, Evian or hundreds of other brands -- more than any other commercial beverage except soda. More than milk. More than coffee. More than beer.
The leading bottled water brand in the United States is PepsiCo's Aquafina, followed by Coke's Dasani. Each does more than $1 billion in annual sales, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.
Both Aquafina and Dasani, as well as many other bottled-water brands sold in stores and supermarkets, are what the FDA calls purified water. Purified water comes from the same municipal pipes that everyone else's water comes from.
The difference is that purified water undergoes any of a variety of filtration treatments to remove chlorine and most dissolved solids.
"It's municipal-source water that's been purified," explained Hemphill at Beverage Marketing Corp.
In other words, tap water.
The irony is that, while the packaging of purified water frequently evokes natural settings and often features the word "pure," it is distinct from ordinary tap water precisely because it has been run through sophisticated machinery.
It is, in other words, anything but natural. Industry representatives generally make no pretense of claiming that purified water is better for consumers than most tap water.
Judging by the $11 billion we spend on water, it appears as if "private water" has officially taken off. And unfortunately, the next step is the privatization of our municipal water systems, as detailed in this piece in Mother Jones Magazine and this very interesting essay in the Utne Reader.
Less attention has been paid to another effect of branded water: It advances a corporate agenda to privatize public drinking supplies. "Bottled water is getting people into the habit of paying an awful lot more for their drinking water," says Tony Clarke, author of "Inside the Bottle
," a book-length expose of the industry published in 2005... As much, in fact, as 10,000 times what they pay for tap water.
In 2003 the world's three largest for-profit water services corporations, France's Suez and Vivendi (now Veolia) and Germany's RWE-Thames, announced their goal to take control of 70 percent of U.S. and Canadian public water utilities within 10 years. By conditioning people to pay more for water than they do for gasoline, Clarke argues, the industry undermines confidence in public water utilities, setting the stage for privatization.
While we're talking about water, here are some interesting stats on water consumption from the Utne Reader:
We Are Water
o Percentage of the human body that is water: 70
o Number of days the average person can survive without water: 3
o Percentage of daily water use saved during Sigmota, Sweden's annual Pee Outside Day: 50
The Wet & Dry
Amount of water used each day by:
o Households with dishwashers, washing machines, and sprinklers: 1,000 liters
o Households with piped-in tap water: 100-300 liters
o Households using a public water hydrant: 20-70 liters
o Households using a distant water source: 2-5 liters.
Labels: economics, politics
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