March 19, 2008

Some Facts About Bottled Water in the United States

Bottled water is a healthy beverage that is produced by an industry with an outstanding tradition of environmental stewardship, protection, and sustainability.

ALEXANDRIA, VA—World Water Day 2008 (March 22) calls attention to the critical need to protect and sustain water resources and “highlights the significance of cooperation and importance of an integrated approach to water resource management of water at both international and local levels,” according to the World Water Day web site ( This global appreciation of water also recognizes the fact that all consumer products use water as an ingredient or in production, including foods and beverages. Bottled water companies have an outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship and responsible use of resources to produce a healthy packaged beverage. And, recognizing that water is necessary for life, the industry brings to people bottled water with consistent safety, quality, good taste, and convenience.

Consumers should consider these facts about bottled water:

Bottled Water and the Environment

  • Annual bottled water production accounts for less than 2/100 of a percent (0.02%) of the total ground water withdrawn in the United States each year. The bottled water industry uses minimal amounts of groundwater to produce this important consumer product—and does so with great efficiency. Visit the web site of the Drinking Water Research Foundation ( for a study summary of the report, “Bottled Water Production in the United States: How Much Ground Water is Actually Being Used?”
  • Even though it is a minimal groundwater user and is one of among thousands of food, beverage and commercial water users, bottled water companies actively support comprehensive ground water management practices that are science-based, treat all users equitably, multi-jurisdictional, and provide for future needs of this important resource.
  • Consumers should be aware that bottled water containers are fully recyclable and should be properly recycled through whatever system a local municipality has in place. In fact, all bottled water containers–whether plastic, glass or aluminum—are recyclable. IBWA actively supports comprehensive curbside recycling programs, partners with other beverage and food companies, municipalities, and the recycling industry, seeks to educate consumers about recycling, and works to increase all recycling to reduce litter.
  • The bottled water industry is working to reduce its environmental footprint by using lighter-weight plastics for its containers and increasing the fuel efficiency in the transportation of their products to market.
  • Convenience-sized water bottles are not a major part of the waste stream, accounting for less than one-third of one percent all waste produced in the U.S. in 2005. Any efforts to reduce the environmental impact of packaging must be comprehensive and focus on all consumer goods.
  • The larger bottles found on many home and office bottled water coolers can be sanitized and re-used an average of 40 times before the bottled water company removes them from the marketplace and recycles them. That is why the bottled water industry is considered one of the “original recyclers.” Larger, single-use bottled water cooler containers are recyclable.

    Global Water Availability

  • While government and the private sector work to find solutions to provide clean drinking water in underserved communities, 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.
  • 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.

    Bottled Water Regulations and Safety

  • Bottled water is comprehensively regulated as a packaged food product by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water’s consistent safety, quality and good taste. By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tap water standards. FDA requires bottled water to comply with bottled water-specific standards as well as regulations required of all food products.
  • Bottled water is not simply tap water in a bottle. FDA and state governments recognize groundwater and municipal water systems as legitimate and valid sources for bottled water production. There are specific labeling and other standards to help ensure consumers are aware of the type of bottled water they choose.
  • Bottled water companies that use municipal source water treat and purify the water employing processes such as reverse osmosis and distillation before it is bottled and delivered to consumers as a packaged food product. The product will be labeled as “purified water,” or alternatively, “reverse osmosis water” if it is treated by reverse osmosis or “distilled water” if it treated by distillation.
  • If bottled water is sourced from a municipal water system and has not been further treated, FDA requires the label to state that it is from a municipal or community water system.
  • Bottled water products are required to comply at all times with FDA Standards of Quality. As with other food products, bottled water is subject to the food adulteration and misbranding requirements of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and is subject to the full array of FDA enforcement actions including warning letters, civil (seizure and/or injunction) and criminal penalties. As with other food products, bottled water may be recalled from the marketplace.
  • In addition to federal and state regulations, IBWA members are required to adhere to standards in the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which in several cases are stricter than FDA, EPA, and state bottled water regulations. The IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is enforced through a mandatory, annual, unannounced plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.
  • With much attention focused on the safety and security of the nation’s food supply, the bottled water industry has elevated its efforts to provide consumers with a safe, high quality product. The numerous federal and state regulations and standards already in place, coupled with the bottled water industry’s use of enhanced learning and security systems to help ensure the safety and security of our products, mean that consumers can trust and rely upon their bottled water.

    Bottled Water and Emergency Response

  • IBWA and the bottled water industry have worked to develop solutions to better enable federal, state and local emergency response agencies to act with greater efficiency and speed with regard to bottled water distribution and coordination in emergency relief operations. IBWA’s broad-ranging expertise can help government officials better understand the issues involved as they attempt to create a more workable system.
  • The IBWA web site hosts the “IBWA Emergency Response Directory (ERD),” which contains a list of national, regional, and local relief organizations and government agencies. Individuals and organizations interested in providing emergency bottled water relief supplies can use the ERD navigate successfully the proper channels and help those in need. IBWA will work to update this document on a regular basis and welcomes updated or corrections to listings. The ERD is posted on the public portion of the IBWA web site and provide direct web links to relevant agencies and organizations, where possible.

    Why Consumers Choose Bottled Water

  • Some groups have sought to frame drinking water issues as a “bottled water versus tap water debate” and that confuses consumers.
  • Consumers are not uniformly replacing their public drinking water with bottled water. Many consumers likely drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances. It does not, however, always amount to a tap versus bottled water choice.
  • Consumers across the United States choose bottled water because it is a healthy, refreshing beverage. In some cases, consumers drink bottled water as an alternative to other packaged beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients. Or, they choose bottled water because they are not always satisfied with the aesthetic qualities (e.g., taste, odor, color) of their tap water. There are thousands of public water systems across the US, most of which are succeeding; but others are faced with occasional “challenges,” emergencies, or natural events that may cause service interruptions.

    Bottled Water Container Safety

  • Bottled water is but one of thousands of beverage and food products packaged in plastic and satisfies consumer demands for the safety and convenience of packaged food and drinks.
  • All plastics (and other materials) intended for contact with foods or beverages, including bottled water, are regulated by FDA to help assure their safety. The materials used in all bottled water containers are shown to be safe through extensive laboratory testing.
  • FDA comprehensively regulates the safety of food, including bottled water, by carefully reviewing food and beverage packaging materials before allowing them on the market. As part of its review, FDA assesses the migration potential of plastics and the substances with which they are made.
  • FDA allows food-contact plastics for their intended use based on safety data. The process includes stringent requirements for estimating the levels at which such materials may transfer to the diet. FDA’s safety criteria require extensive toxicity testing for any substance that may be ingested at more than negligible levels. This means FDA has affirmatively determined that, when plastics are used as intended in food-contact applications, the nature and amount of substances that may migrate, if any, are safe.

    For more facts about bottled water regulations, safety and other reasons for consumer bottled water choice, visit Consumers have a right to information that may help them make balanced decisions about their drinking water and beverage choices.