Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Bottled water is making huge profits

Up until the late 1970’s there was no bottled water. Only 1976 did the first bottled water appear when the French bottler Perrier made its debut. These days you can hardly enter a shop or restaurant without finding bottled water on its shelves or menu.

The questions we as consumers must ask is: “What is the cost of bottled water?” and “Is it worth the price?”

Water is a human right and most of us have access in our homes, businesses, or schools to water supplied by our municipalities. This water is supplied to us at an average cost of N$ 11.45 per kilolitre – or 12c per 10 litre. That’s right, 12 Namibian cents per ten litres of water or less than 2c per litre.  (Source: City of Windhoek Tariff Booklet 2013/14)

Now let us compare that to the price of bottled water. A bottle of water can cost on average N$ 10.00 per litre in most retail stores in Namibia.

Regular drinking water competes with itself in a bottle, but reviewing the cost difference, you've got to wonder why or how?

Most consumers will tell you that that water in a plastic bottle is healthier and tastes better. According to international reports - with the help of advertisements, bottled water has gone from "reservoir to faddish luxury item to mass commodity.” Bottled H2O is being directly or indirectly sold as: healthy, smart, pure, sexy, clean and simple, it is "the stuff of life." The question we must ask is now is that a scientific fact or something we have come to believe because of the marketing by these bottling companies?  Even more worrying is that it has not been widely reported that in a few countries in the world concerns have been raised about chemicals leeching into the water from the soft plastic material of bottles.

And this brings us to the main concern (besides the high price and thus profit margin for bottling companies) about the bottled water. There is no government regulation about what constitutes mineral or “fresh” water and what are the types of inferences bottling companies can place when advertising or labelling their products. In fact most bottlers of water will admit they are bottling water from the municipal source but are “purifying” and adding taste.

Another concern in this day and age of recycling, is that as consumers we are polluting our environment with these plastic water bottles that are more expensive that tap water even though it may or may not be “better for us”.  According to the Sierra Club (One of the oldest, largest, and most influential grassroots environmental organizations in the United States), “Annually the water bottles themselves take about 1.5 million tons of plastic to manufacture for the global market.”

Did you know plastics come from oil and therefore it takes 1.5 million barrels of oil a year? Additionally the manufacturing process releases toxins into the environment, such as nickel, ethylbenzene, ethylene oxide and benzene. Even with current plastic recycling centres, “most used bottles end up in landfills, adding to the landfill crisis."


As a consumer you must ask yourself before you buy your next bottle of water: Am I willing to pay more than 50 000% for a bottle of water that is not regulated and checked for quality while adding to the pollution of the environment?

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