Bottled water refers to water that has been bottled in plastic or glass containers and is for sale. This water may be from natural springs or wells, distilled, sparkling, artesian, purified, or mineral. The bottled water industry has even expanded to include water vending machines, where customers take personal containers to be filled. Some individuals pay for a bottled water service that delivers bottled water to their homes or offices on a weekly or monthly basis. It is particularly popular as an alternative to sugary, carbonated drinks and in areas where municipal water sources must be treated prior to consumption.
Today, production and marketing of bottled water occurs all over the world. The global market for bottled water has a value of around $60 billion due to an increase in consumption between 1990 and 2005. Approximately 200 billion bottles of water are consumed every year around the world. Some of the largest bottled water industries and markets can be found in the US, the European Union, Australia, New Zealand, India, Pakistan, and Lebanon.
The process for bottling water depends on the water source. Purified water, for example, comes from a municipal water source and is demineralized to remove any dissolved solids. The first step of purification is filtration, to remove germs and larger inorganic solids. This is followed by distillation, in which the water is evaporated in order to leave behind minerals. Purified water is then sent through a reverse osmosis and ozonation process to remove any remaining microorganisms. The final stage is a UV light treatment.
Water from other sources (like underground aquifers, artesian wells, and springs) may not be required to go through this process before reaching the market.
The bottled water industry began in 1621 at the Holy Well in the Malvern Hills of the UK. As water therapy and spa attendance grew in popularity throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in the UK and the United States, the market demand for bottled water also grew. Bottled water consumers believed that spring water held natural, curative properties to treat a number of symptoms. In 1767, the first bottled water company in the US was founded in the city of Boston.
Soon after, a method was developed to create artificially carbonated water that resembled natural mineral water. As manufacturing technology advanced in the 19th century, the bottled water industry was able to lower its costs, thus increasing consumer demand. In the early 1900’s, however, municipalities in the US began to implement chlorinated water in public water systems, which decreased demand as public water sources became safer for consumption. The European market continued to grow and in 1977, Perrier was introduced to the US bottled water market. This prompted a resurgence in demand for popular water. Today, bottled water is the second most popular beverage in the US.
The bottled water industry is regulated by the government where it is produced and where it will be sold. In the US, for example, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for ensuring the safety and standards for bottled water on the market. In order to be marketed as bottled water in the US, the product cannot contain sweeteners or chemical additives. Spice and fruit essences may be added if it makes up less than 1% of the final product. Both the FDA of the US and the Food Standards Department of Australia regulate the amount of fluoride in bottled water.
About the Author
Amber is a freelance writer, English as a foreign language teacher, and Spanish-English translator. She lives with her husband and 3 cats.
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