Much bottled water and mineral water is really bottled municipal tap water—in the United States, government and industry estimate that municipal water makes up twenty-five to forty percent of the bottled water sold. American bottlers are also permitted by the FDA to label water as spring water even when it’s treated with chemicals or pumped to the surface through a well near a true spring. For example,wells across southern Maine pump water to be sold as Nestlé’s Poland Spring, which is sourced neither from Poland Spring nor any other spring. It’s helpful to make a distinction between two different kinds of bottled water.
Commodity Bottled Water
BOTTLED WATER - The salient characteristic of this type is that it is bottled, providing a convenient package for on-the-go hydration. Water fountains or sinks would work just as well to quench your thirst, but water companies’ self-serving marketing campaigns may have persuaded you that water is healthier when it comes from a bottle.
This attitude turns bottled water into a commodity, regardless of where the water comes from. Convenience is the key; the water itself is nothing special. The large, powerful companies behind these waters ensure that their products are the ones found in everyday supermarkets, unfortunately.
Water like this is the reason journalists sometimes condemn bottled water as a big scam, and I can understand their thinking. I would be angry, too, if I bought water in the supermarket only to discover that it was in fact purified tap water. But I’m not angry,because I know better: I buy bottled water.
Natural Bottled Water
BOTTLED WATER - These very special waters express terroir. Bottled at the source, they may be naturally carbonated and are treated only minimally (if at all). Contact with geological formations imparts a unique mineral composition to each water; many of these compositions are reputed to have healthful properties. Some waters may have been formed only thirty days before bottling, whereas others are more than twenty thousand years old.
Many companies and individuals care deeply about the water they sell and its source. I talk to them every day, and they could certainly talk about their product all day they are proud of delivering natural bottled water and obsessed with protecting its source. Some of these companies are new, but sometimes the waters have been used since Roman times, more than two thousand years ago.