Shocking Facts about Bottled Water and What Consumers Are Doing about Them

It’s Not “Just Water”

Bottled water. It has become as generic as tap yet more preferred these days. Why is that? If you think it’s because bottled water tastes better or simply is better than your local tap water, you’re probably wrong. It’s not your fault, however. We’ve all been duped. While carbonated water has been available for more than 200 years, bottled non-carbonated (“flat”) water didn’t hit its stride until recently. It was at the turn of this century, the early 2000s, when it struck gold, convincing the consumer that tap water is just plain gross.

We bought the gimmick, quite literally, purchasing billions upon billions of these plastic bottles of water every year. Each person in the U.S. is estimated to use 167 plastic water bottles every year. Even though our tap water is more regulated than bottled water (the EPA requires multiple daily tests of public water sources and publicizes results while the FDA regulates bottled water and requires weekly testing and does not publish its findings), we have been brainwashed into believing bottled water comes from purer sources, from the mountains the Alps to the streams in Fiji. We’ve convinced our taste buds that bottled water tastes better, too. After all, it’s from remote and pristine rivers, right?

Not so fast. In the U.S. 24 percent of bottled water sold is from purified municipal water. That’s not island water, my friends. That’s the same water as from your local tap. Water that is of the same or less quality as your sink water, that is before it’s then put into plastic (a.k.a chemical) bottles and sold to you at hundreds to thousands of times the cost. Bottled water use for one year could cost $346 but the same amount of tap water would only be 48 cents.

Where is all this money going? The stores who sell them get the largest share, followed by transportation costs, then production. The profits to the manufacturer are slim with only about 15 cents added as profit. Still, the bottled water market is at a healthy $11.8 billion in annual sales. Even if you recycle your water bottles, only 23 percent of them are actually being recycled, which means 38 billion water bottles are headed for the landfills or worse, our waterways.

The Shift towards Reusable Water Bottles

Thankfully, the American public is getting smarter and asking more questions about bottled water. They are increasingly concerned about their environment and what the manufacturing, transporting and disposal of these plastic bottles are doing to our planet. Those “healthier” plastic water bottles require about 17 million barrels of oil each year and can contain more than 24,500 chemicals. You read that right: more than 20k. Sort of leaves a bad taste in your mouth, huh?

Consumers are purchasing more reusable water bottles they can fill with tap water and reuse the bottles over and over again instead of filling up our landfills. In fact, the reusable bottle market is exploding. One source estimates the market will rise to more than $10 billion by 2024 with a compounded average growth rate of 4.2 percent. This is great news but it’s not enough.

While we’ve moved away from plastic disposable water bottles, many consumers are buying plastic sports water bottles. Refilling them with tap water is fantastic and goes a long way in reducing costs and saving our planet but they’re still made of plastic. Plastic, whether it’s in the form of a Dasani water bottle or a heavy-duty reusable sports bottle, is still plastic.

The Stainless Revolution

That brings us to the best option: stainless steel. Stainless steel reusable bottles are free of chemicals, don’t leach into the water like aluminum, are often vacuum-insulated to keep fluids hot or cold for long periods of time, are extremely durable and they don’t sweat. Plus, let’s admit it, they look cool, too.

The stainless water bottle market is booming thanks to designer brands like S’well, who was expected to rake in nearly $100 million in sales in 2016. While the stainless water bottle may be more of a reflection of one’s personal style, it’s quickly becoming the bottle of choice for those interested in their hydration. Athletes and those who understand the importance of hydration are wanting more from their water bottle than simply a fashion statement.

The Smart Water Bottle

Sure, you can get hydrated drinking from any container (hopefully, not plastic) but today’s water bottles are getting smarter. Smart water bottles are like any “smart” technology we have become accustomed to: they use intelligent technology to do more than simply provide a container for fluids. Smart sports water bottles help athletes and those who pay attention to their health and hydration figure out just how much water they really need.

For those who are used to monitoring their fitness progress, hydration is an important part of the equation. Most athletes understand this as it is drilled into them by coaches and trainers. These experts know that dehydration can reduce the body’s capacity to perform by about 30 percent. If you are an aerobic athlete (one who exerts large amounts of physical energy), even as little as a 2.5 percent body weight loss due to dehydration can result in a 45 percent decrease in exercise performance.

As more people carry around stainless water bottles and these smart water bottles, they are growing in popularity among even the non-athletes. And as more people invest in smart technology to track their every step, their sleep pattern, their heart rate and various other bodily metrics, hydration will become the next frontier. Not only because it’s interesting to know how much water is enough, but that being hydrated helps you perform better and feel great. Just Google “how does water make you feel better” and you’re going to get nearly 200 million results.

Related: Wearable Technology - How Hydration Fits into the Equation

Our Strange Journey

You can see that we have come a long way in our water journey. It feels like we are returning back to the basics in one sense, embracing tap water as we shun the marketing ploys, health hazards and damage to our planet with the use of plastic water bottles. On the other hand, we are forging forward into the future with reusable water bottles that do more than quench a thirst but help us understand our bodies at a whole new level.

These smart water bottles with apps are likely to extend beyond fitness aficionados. After all, hydration isn’t just for athletes. Because dehydration can cause so many health issues and so many health issues can be remedied with proper hydration, anyone stands to benefit from using the technology.

I predict the healthcare industry will be next to embrace these smart water bottles with apps. The bottles are less expensive than medications yet hydration can effectively eliminate many of them. For instance, dehydration headaches are frequent and often treated with over the counter medications. Yet research shows that rehydration helped ease, and in some cases completely relieve symptoms. It has also been found that people who drank six cups of water more than they usually drank during the day reported fewer instances of tension headaches and migraines.

Staying hydrated means understanding your body and your environment. Take advantage of the new technology available to help you get and stay on the right path towards optimal health. You will feel better and be able to perform at your best (whatever that means to you) when every cell in your body is hydrated. Just don’t reach for a disposable water bottle. It’s 2017 - a year you can remove 167 plastic water bottles from the landfill. Now that’s a resolution I can stick to.

Tags: environment, hydration, smart water bottle