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A new report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation finds that sales of bottled water in the United States reached a new pinnacle in 2011. With sales increasing by 4.1 percent, 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water were sold last year, with per capita consumption hitting 29.2 gallons, also a new U.S. record. The growth comes after two consecutive years of economic recession (2008 and 2009) in which bottled water sales suffered substantial declines.
“What’s been driving the market for more than ten years now is the single-serve bottle of non-carbonated water,” said Gary A. Hemphill, the managing director of information services for the Beverage Market Corporation by telephone. “They easily account for more than 60 percent of overall sales,” he explained, adding that the market includes sparkling water, home and office delivery jugs and imports. “They’re more of a refreshment beverage. When people are out at convenience stores, for example, more of them are choosing non-carbonated bottled water than ever before.”
Water may be everywhere, but just how many drops can we drink? A new book from journalist Charles Fishman uncovers some of the secrets of our planet’s most precious resource, looking at the long-term ramifications of how we treat water. Recently, Patt Morrison spoke with Fishman about his new study, The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water. (Listen to the entire interview here.)
In The Big Thirst, Fishman takes on some of the mythologies and misunderstandings of water in this world. Did you know that each of us uses 250 gallons a day person just for electricity to run our households? But what we learn about bottled water is perhaps most distressing. As Fishman points out, the quality of your bottled water is likely less than what comes out of your tap.
“Tap water monitored much more closely than bottled water,” Fishman tells Patt Morrison, “The truth is that your tap water is as safe as or safer than your bottled water.” Nonetheless, Americans buy 29 billion single-serve bottles of water every year. Only around a quarter of those bottled get recycled. Some American towns, such as Concord, Massachusetts, have even banned the sale of bottled water.