In honour of World Water Day on March 22, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is reminding consumers that bottled water is a healthy beverage, produced by an industry with an outstanding tradition of environmental stewardship, protection, and sustainability.IBWA says consumers should consider the following facts about bottled water:
- Annual bottled water production accounts for less than 0.02 per cent of the total ground water withdrawn in the United States each year.
- 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 per cent 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.”
- 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 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 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.
- 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.
- The IBWA web site hosts the “IBWA Emergency Response Directory” which contains a list of national, regional, and local relief organizations and government agencies.
- 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.
All 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.