In a new policy statement the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management say that when there exists a “wholesome and safe supply of mains drinking water” then bottled water cannot be seen as a sustainable option.

Drinking water from the tap is also subject to stringent quality controls and the public is easily able to access information about its bacteriological and chemical content, its price is subject to rigorous controls and is on average 500 times cheaper than bottled water, the statement says.

Bottled water, however, is not required to list its chemical or bacteriological content so consumers are unable to see how it compares to tap water or other water products.

“Bottled water marketing has driven a public perception of such products as purer or healthier than water from the tap,” said Nick reeves, executive director of CIWEM. “Such perceptions are unfounded and can lead to undesirable consequences: for example, the high mineral content of some bottled waters makes them unsuitable for feeding babies and young children.”

CIWEM is particularly concerned that parents might use bottled water to make up infant formula in the mistaken belief that they are doing the best for their offspring.

The statement also highlights the range of environmental costs associated with bottled waters such as the impact of abstraction on the local environment, packaging of the product, resource use and pollution from the transportation of bottled waters, and the disposal of the waste packaging once the water has been consumed.

The statement was released in the same week as the House of Commons released figures showing that, in 2004, it spent over £11,000 a week on bottled water.

David Hopkins

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