Q.  Energy consumption in the production and distribution of bottled water contributes to global warming. By using tap water we can help to reduce our carbon footprint.

A. This statement would be factual if most consumers viewed bottled water as an alternative to tap water, which they don’t. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, “Bottled water competes with a variety of other cold beverages, including carbonated soft drinks, milk, juices, soya beverages, energy drinks and sport drinks and to a lesser extent with hot drinks such as coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and low alcohol wine coolers and ciders.” [1]

According to a study published by independent marketing research firm A.C.Nielsen, 95% of the movement to bottled water is due to a shift from other beverages, most notably soft drinks, tea and milk[2]

A 2009 City of Vancouver report on bottled water put this matter in proper perspective when staff there wrote the following: “The environmental costs of bottled water include the effects of bulk water removal, the life cycle of the bottles and greenhouse gas emissions associated with the transportation of the beverage. With the exception of bulk water removal, these costs are associated with any packaged beverage.”[3]

Regarding the impact of bottled water on the environment within the context of the statement, Greenpeace co-founder Dr. Patrick Moore recently wrote that “many scientists and nearly all environmental groups believe global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas. Many other scientists believe the present global warming trend is a natural phenomenon similar to the other warming and cooling periods that have occurred throughout Earth’s history. It is not possible to scientifically prove which opinion is correct because there are too many variables and we are talking about predicting the future, a difficult task for the simplest of issues. And climate change and global warming are anything but simple – this is one of the most complex and challenging areas in science today.”[4]

[1] Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, The Canadian Bottled Water Industry, March 2009
[2] Nielsen Research, Report On Bottled Water, October 2006
[3] City of Vancouver, Bottled Water in Civic Facilities, April 2009
[4] Dr. Patrick Moore, Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout, March 2011

Q. Bottling water has the potential to decrease water table volume. This effect has been seen in Guelph and in other communities with bottled water operations.

A. This is false. In approving Nestlé Waters Canada’s permit to draw water in 2011, the Ontario Ministry of Environment stated that “the ongoing monitoring and recent extended pumping test indicates that the water taking is not having an impact on other groundwater uses. The history of this taking also indicates that there has been no interference with either quantity or quality on other groundwater uses.” OMOE further stated that, “following a thorough review by the ministry’s technical staff of the permit application, supporting reports, environmental monitoring data and the comments and submissions received up to the point of the decision, the director is confident that this taking is sustainable and poses no threat to groundwater uses over the next five years (length of new permit).”[5]

The earth’s hydrologic cycle naturally replenishes what the Canadian bottled water industry bottles and uses to bottle its spring waters. “The renewable supply is what falls from the sky and runs off in rivers, often passing through lakes as it moves to the sea. Some goes underground, replenishing aquifers that can be tapped by wells. These flows are renewed every year and count as the water supply.”[6]

The Canadian bottled water industry uses just 0.02% of permitted water in Canada compared to thermal power generation (63%), manufacturing (15%), municipalities (9.5%), agriculture (9.5%) and mining (1%). [7]

Worldwide, the bottled water industry is not a significant factor in the global access-to-water debate: agriculture uses 70% of total available fresh water, industry 20% and domestic users 10%. The bottled water industry uses well less than 1%.[8]

[5] Ontario Ministry of Environment, Regarding Permit Number 1763-8FXR29, April 2011
[6] John B. Sprague, excerpt from Eau Canada by Karen Bakker, page 20, second paragraph
[7] Environment Canada web site, February 2013
[8] United Nations web site, February 2013

Q. Safe tap water is available to the vast majority of Canadians. Bottled water is not a safer source of water and can contain potentially harmful chemicals.

A. This is false. Bottled water is held to the same scrutiny as tap water and is strictly regulated by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency as a food product. According to Health Canada, “Consumers should be aware that bottled water is as safe to consume as tap water from a microbiological quality and chemical safety standpoint.”[9]

Health Canada is aware of reports appearing on the Internet expressing concerns about the potential degradation of plastic water bottles which have been left in cars exposed to summer heat, for example. The focus of such concern has been the alleged release of cancer-causing chemicals from the plastic bottles into the water. However, according to Health Canada, there is no scientific evidence to support such a concern. Studies conducted on water bottles, even under severe temperature abuse conditions, have failed to generate the production of chemicals at levels that could pose a health risk to the consumer of the water in question. [10]

[9] Health Canada, It’s Your Health, The Safety of Bottled Water, April 2009
[10] Health Canada web site, February 2013

Q. Water is a human right.

A. We agree that water is a human right, but the fact is that it’s also a commodity — and a fundamental requirement for the growth, processing, manufacture and distribution of all foods we consume and all materials we produce. It is the essence of life. The bottled water industry had nothing to do with this historical fact.

Nestlé S.A. Chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe recently wrote that, “Some years ago there was a rather heated debate about whether water should be considered a human right. On the one hand, some might have found the discussion rather bizarre: the right to life is an essential part in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Art 3.); since there is no life without water, the access to water for survival is logical part of it. And with Article 24 expressing the right to a standard of living adequate for human health, it is clear that this is about safe water. With this thinking in mind, Nestlé formally (in its business principles) and I personally, in numerous public speeches, have long been strong supporters of water as a human right for many years before the 2010 resolution. The World Health Organization estimates the need for drinking, cooking and basic hygiene in emergency situations at 15 litres per person and per day. WHO also mentions a number of out-of-home water requirements, in hospitals, mosques for ceremonial purposes, schools etc. Ultimately, basic needs are estimated by different sources at 25-50 litres per capita and per day. Assuming 25 litres, this would be a global volume of 1.5% of water withdrawals for human use. In other words, the problem here is not shortage of water, but something one might consider bad management.”

Q. By choosing public water where it is available and by requesting that bottled water be banned from public places, you’ll be taking an important step towards ensuring that water is accessible to all.

A. This is incorrect. The inference here is that money spent on bottled water represents an investment that is not being made elsewhere, such as in municipal water and sewer infrastructure. This line of reasoning is simply illogical. Canadians pay local, provincial and federal taxes, partly so that government at all levels will invest in water and sewer infrastructure construction and maintenance. They spend their after-tax or disposable income on many consumer items, including bottled water. They do not spend money on bottled water at the expense of tap water.

A 2011City of Port Alberni staff report took a pragmatic bent: “While we understand the issue behind banning the sales of bottled water, it seems a bit odd that we would be moving towards banning the healthiest beverage choice available in our facilities. Having water fountains available in the same facilities is not a satisfactory alternative in our view. We should also mention that in our experience at the facility, we have found that many adults will not use drinking fountains and often discourage their kids from doing the same. If this motion were to be supported, we would continue to stock and sell all of our other beverage choices, many of which are in plastic bottles and not the healthiest one, water!”

A 2012 Regional District of Nanaimo report on the Blue Communities Project was quite pointed in its rejection of the notion: The term “water as a human right” requires a legislative and legal structure developed at the national and provincial level before local governments can properly interpret their roles and responsibilities. Adopting this resolution without a complete understanding of the implications would not provide clear direction for future action. The second resolution, “Promote publicly financed, owned and operated water and waste-water services” is consistent with current practice and is supportable while recognizing all options for future capital and infrastructure funding will remain open. An outright ban on the sale of bottled water could prove to be problematic. Bottled water is a healthy beverage choice when compared to many sport, carbonated and fruit-based drinks. Banning the sale of bottled water may inadvertently drive customers back to the convenience of purchasing less healthy alternatives. Providing a consumer friendly public drinking water source has been completed at the Ravensong Aquatic Centre and is planned for at Oceanside Place in 2012. It is recommended that this be supported in conjunction with the promotion of public water.”

A 2009 Toronto District School Board report enunciated the problems for young people associated with banning the sale of bottled water. Board staff wrote that “students have access to 35% of the water needed for proper hydration during the school day” and when bottled water was temporarily removed as part of their study into the matter, “of those students who normally purchased bottled water at school, 22% drank nothing at all and those who substituted pop or soft drinks for water outnumbered those who chose milk or juice.” Staff warned there is a direct link between hydration and brain function and “a mere 2% drop in body water can trigger short term fuzzy memory, trouble with basic math and difficulty focusing on a computer screen.”

Public Health Units in Kingston, London, New Westminster and elsewhere have recommended against a ban on the sale of bottled water in those communities because, to quote Kingston Medical Officer of Health Ian Gemmill, “a prohibition of the availability of bottled water in a venue is a step backwards from a health point of view, when high-caloric beverages are the only other option.”

Q. A litre of bottled water can cost up to 2,000 times more than a litre of tap water.

A. This is false. According to independent market research firm Nielsen Research, 95% of bottled water is sold in bulk through grocery stores at an average selling price of 17 cents a half-litre. A litre of tap water costs about a cent.[11] However, the comparison is irrelevant, given that most Canadians don't view them as competing hydration alternatives. According to independent consumer research firm Probe Research, 70% of Canadians drink both[12]. They consume tap water at home and bottled water away from home for health and convenience. Bottled water competes with other bottled beverages. It is not an alternative to tap water. Probe also reports that 91% of bottled water drinkers consume tap water daily.

[11] Nielsen Research, Marketplace Snapshot, January 2013
[12] Probe Research, A Clear Perspective, July 2012

Q. The water in a major Canadian might be tested over 120,000 times a year. By contrast, bottled water is often not tested at all. Companies are not required to comply with voluntary testing programs. Since 2008, the federal government has inspected only 6 per cent of all water bottling plants.

A This is false. No municipality in Canada is testing its water 120,000 times a year and even if that was the case, that represents about one-fifth of the amount of testing performed annually by the Canadian bottled water industry on its products. For example, the City of Guelph performed 18,800 tests in 2007. The Regional Municipality of Waterloo reported on September 9, 2008, that it did 10,000 tests on its water supply in 2007. Nestlé Waters Canada performs more than 1,700 tests on its water supply daily or more in one week than Waterloo Region does in a year and more in two weeks than the City of Guelph does in 12 months. A copy of our testing activities is available upon request. Testing is also conducted via surprise annual inspections by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada, the Canadian Bottled Water Association and Nestlé SA. Nestlé Waters Canada subjects its finished products and source water to microbiological analysis every day that exceeds the microbiological requirements outlined in the Safe Water Drinking Act, which governs both municipal tap water and bottled water. Nestlé Waters Canada takes a multi-barrier approach to water safety. The Company is required to test for 160 compounds in both source and finished product for coliform, E-coli (daily), coliform, E-coli (weekly), chemicals (quarterly) and metals, chemicals and minerals (annually). Water samples are also sent to a third party independent lab for analysis every week. Basic chemical and physical analysis of bottled water is completed daily. Annually, we conduct a full spectrum analysis on each water source for primary inorganics, secondary inorganics, radiologicals, volatile organic compounds, organics, disinfection byproducts, pesticides, herbicides, physical contaminants as well as several other potential chemical contaminants. In addition to the tests identified above, there are many on-line quality checks performed by our operators on an hourly basis to ensure the chemical, microbiological and physical safety of the finished goods produced at our plants. Our testing levels meet or exceed all requirements of Health Canada and other governing bodies. The annual monitoring reports are conditions of our permits and are submitted to the province and other public agencies. As such, they become public documents upon receipt.

Q. 25 percent of bottled water sold in Canada comes directly from a public tap before being reprocessed.

A. This is false. According to independent market research firm Nielsen Research, as of February 9, 2013, almost 95% of bottled water in Canada emanated from deep aquifers on private property, whereas less than 5% came from municipal sources.[13]

[13] Nielsen Research, Marketplace Snapshot, January 2013

Q. The majority of plastic bottles are not recycled. They end up in landfills and, as they decompose, pollute the soil and water.

A. This is false. According to facts compiled by independent environmental consultant StewardEdge from the provincial stewards responsible, the recovery rate for plastic beverage containers was almost 70% across Canada in 2011[14]. It was roughly 80% in British Columbia in 2012[15]. Plastic beverage containers represent less than 1/5th of 1% of the waste stream. Bottled water packaging represents 40% of that figure. If the bottled water industry ceased operations tomorrow, there would be no appreciable reduction in the amount of refuse going to landfill.

[14] StewardEdge Consultants, July 2012
[15] Encorp Pacific, February 2013

Q. In addition, it takes three litres of water and the equivalent of a third of its content in petroleum to make a single one-litre plastic bottle. 

A. This is false. According to Environment Canada, it takes 1.5 litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water. By comparison, it takes 3 litres of water to produce one litre of soft drinks; it takes 42 litres of water to produce one litre of beer; it takes 28 litres of water to produce one slice of brown bread; it takes 53 litres of water to grow and market an orange; and it takes 183 litres of water to produce one 8-ource glass of milk.

The amount of petroleum cited to make a single bottle is urban mythology commonly found on the Internet. No scientific study exists to support this claim. Bottled water packaging is not made from oil. It is primarily made from natural gas. The energy inputs of a 12-gram, 500ml PET bottle produced from virgin material is approximately .84MJ. If all energy inputs (hydro, materials, etc.) are translated to oil equivalents, that would account for less than 2.5% of the bottle’s volume. Recycled content, plant-based plastics and light-weighting are reducing that figure. Recycling preserves 86% of that energy content for use in other products and packaging.[16]

According to independent environmental consultant Quantis International, bottled water has the smallest carbon footprint of any bottled beverage.[17] There probably isn’t another mass-produced food product so readily available to consumers than bottled water. In 2008, the average shipping distance was 250 kilometers from source to shelf. That compares to 2,400 to 3,200 kilometers for fresh fruit and vegetables and most consumer packaged goods sold through grocers, according to Dan Murphy, an agricultural consultant from Washington state.

[16] US EPA, Solid Waste Management and Greenhouse Gases, 2002
[17] Quantis International, February 2010

Q. Bottled water leads to water shortages. It takes 3-5 litres of water for every one litre bottle produced.

A. This is false. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, “the Canadian bottled water industry is an efficient user of its water source. The industry uses only 1.3 litres of water to make 1 litre of bottled water in comparison to other beverage industries which may use several litres of water to make 1 litre of that beverage.”[18]

According to Environment Canada, it takes 3 litres of water to produce one litre of soft drinks; it takes 28 litres of water to produce one slice of brown bread; it takes 42 litres of water to produce one litre of beer; it takes 53 litres of water to grow and market an orange; and it takes 183 litres of water to produce one 8-ource glass of milk.[19] Water is a fundamental requirement for the processing, manufacture and distribution of all food consumed by human beings.

[18] Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, The Canadian Bottled Water Industry, March 2009    

 Q. Buried plastic water bottles can take up to 1,000 years to degrade.

 A. This is incorrect urban mythology commonly found on the Internet