Your Bottled Water Might Come From Parched California

Loose regulations, high demand keep bottlers in business

By Shelley Hazen,  Newser Staff

Posted Aug 12, 2014 4:30 PM CDT

(Newser) – The $22 billion bottled water business is rife with odd logic: It takes 1.39 liters of water to make one liter of bottled water, for example, and much of the nation's supply is being drawn from a state parched by drought, the Atlantic reports. Why, then, do we get so much of our bottled water from California? More than 100 bottled-water facilities operate in the state, taking advantage of a lack of groundwater regulations. "In other words, if you're a water company and you drill down and find water in California, it's all yours," writes Julia Lurie. Plus, state and local water-planning officials aren't privy to the details. "We have not been given any restrictions on tap water use for producing our bottled water," Essentia founder Ken Uptain tells CNBC. (About 55% of bottled is from groundwater and the rest is simply treated tap water.)

Three years into the drought, homeowners are being fined for water use and resources are dwindling—but water companies such as Dasani, Aquafina, and Cystal Geyser keep on bottling in California. Consumers demand it: Americans drink 29.2 gallons of bottled water each year on average, translating to 10 billion gallons and $12 billion in sales in 2012 alone. A backlash appears to be growing, however: "This industry has very successfully turned a public resource into a private commodity," says author Peter Gleick. And a Fordham professor puts it this way: "Bottled water is a massive profit industry for corporations that have limited responsibility to the local communities from which they draw water." (In related news, "BPA-free" doesn't necessarily mean your water bottle is safe.)

  (Shutterstock)
Store employees bring in a new shipment of bottled water at a supermarket in Chelsea, Mass., Sunday, May 2, 2010.
Store employees bring in a new shipment of bottled water at a supermarket in Chelsea, Mass., Sunday, May 2, 2010.   (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
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