There's a controversy going on right now in Canada regarding the use of bottled water in government. A group, primarily for environmentalist reasons, is trying to get a rule in place that bottled water is not used in government buildings. I suppose they probably mean not sold in government buildings, nor put out when events are catered.
It turns out that bottled water is less regulated than tap water, in terms of safety. That means, given some random bottle of bottled water, it need not, legally, be as healthful as water you get from the tap. The argument goes that tap water is at least as good as bottled.
In addition there are environmental reasons not to use bottled water. It's just water, for crying out loud, so why bottle it and ship it and then throw it away? The shipping, creation, and disposal of bottled water uses a lot of energy, which means more pollution. Drinking water shipped in from Fiji, for example, is a huge waste of energy.
(Ironically, bottled waters also get criticized for not being spring water. I hear people complain about Dasani being from the tap (they add minerals.) From an environmental perspective, it's better that it's from the tap, though it is deceptive to call it "spring water," which, in all fairness, Dasani doesn't do. )
So environmentally, it sounds like a no-brainer, right?
The bottled water companies have argued with this, and they just might be right: bottled water competes with soda (pop, as Canadians and people from Rochester say), not tap water. People are drinking bottled water instead of Pepsi, not tap water.
This has interesting environmental implications, if true. If people are choosing bottled water over Coke, it means that if bottled water isn't an option they'll drink Coke. A bottle of Coke is no better for the environment than water, and it's worse for your teeth and weight. I know that sometimes I've seen a tray of drinks, and if I was very thirsty, I'd just get water instead of Crush or something. Bottled water may be less likely to be healthful than tap water, but it's very probably better for you than Crush.
If, on the other hand, people drink bottled water as an alternative to tap water, then yes, it is wasteful.
There's probably a bit of both going on. It calls for scientific study. Interviewing people on their habits of drinking water of various kinds could shed some much needed scientific light on the subject.
Anybody know of such a study?