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Bottled Water Facts

The bottled water facts that appear on this webpage are supported by information from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). Links to appropriate bottled water regulations are provided, for additional information.

Dispel the Myths and Get the FACTS about Bottled Water!

Myth #1: Bottled water isn't as regulated as tap water and manufacturers have few, if any guidelines to follow.

Fact: Bottled water has been federally regulated since 1973.

The FDA has established bottled water regulations that all companies must follow to ensure bottled water remains healthy and safe to drink.

The Federal bottled water regulations set by the FDA are as stringent as those established by the EPA for tap water, if not more so. Any differences are usually the result of a regulated substance not being found in bottled water, or a regulation already existing under another FDA provision that applies to bottled water.

For example: Because lead can leach from pipes into municipal water as it travels into homes, the EPA has set the limit for lead in water at 15ppb (parts per billion). Since lead pipes aren't used in the production of bottled water, the FDA has set the limit for lead in bottled water at 5ppb (parts per billion).

FDA bottled water regulations require companies to regularly sample and analyze their water. Samples must be found to be safe and sanitary. In fact, bottled water must be test for microbes in both the source water and finished product. If contaminants are discovered, more frequent and specific testing is required.  The FDA also monitors bottled water plant and equipment design, bottling procedures and record keeping.

Bottled water companies must pass regular inspections by the FDA as part of its food safety program, and some states require bottled water companies to obtain an annual license.

Myth #2: The FDA has no authority over bottled water that doesn't cross state lines (i.e. is not interstate commerce).

Fact: Nearly all bottled water falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA, even if the bottled water itself is not transported across state lines.

Courts have long held that if any component used in the manufacturing of a product crosses state lines (i.e. the plastic used to make the bottles, the paper or ink used for printing labels, etc.), the FDA has jurisdiction over the entire final product, regardless of whether the product itself actually crosses state lines.

In the case of bottled water, either the packaging materials or the water itself, almost always come from out of state, making it subject to FDA regulations.

Congress has even enacted a law presuming that all food and beverage products are subject to interstate commerce regulations. As such, almost all bottled water falls under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Learn more about State bottled water regulations.

Myth #3: Purified bottled water is nothing but tap water that is poured into a bottle and sold at markup.

Fact: Untreated tap water does not meet the requirements to be labeled as purified water.

The source water used for bottling may come from a municipality; however, this water is ultimately treated and filtered by the bottled water company to achieve high levels of purity prior to being packaged and sold. Water must be treated through reverse osmosis, distillation, deionization, or another suitable process to meet standards that allow it to be labeled as purified water.

Myth #4: Bottled water companies can put whatever they want on the label, so you never know where the water really came from.

Fact: Bottled water labels are required to clearly state the type (source) of water that is in the container.

Bottled water falls under the classification of a food product and must therefore meet extensive labeling requirements. This includes listing the type of water packaged in the bottle. Knowing the type of water will give you a good idea of the source the water came from. There are four main types of bottled water:

  • Artesian Water – Water from deep in the ground that is tapped and collected through an aquifer.
  • Mineral Water – Water that comes from an underground source and naturally contains trace minerals (total dissolved solids) of at least 250 parts per million.
  • Purified Drinking Water – Water that is treated through distillation, reverse osmosis, or other means to purify the water and remove any contaminants or chemicals.
  • Spring Water – Water that comes from an underground spring, typically collected at the point where the spring naturally flows to the surface.

Bottled water labels also include a way for consumers to contact the bottled water company to get additional answers to questions about the specific water source used, treatment methods, and water quality information.

Myth #5: Plastic water bottles only pollute the environment.

Fact: Plastic water bottles are 100% recyclable, and the recycling rate for single-serve plastic water bottles has more than doubled over the past seven years.

Pollution is always a concern, and the bottled water industry continually works towards reducing its impact on the environment. Since 2000, the average weight of a half-liter plastic water bottled has been reduced by 47.7%, and plastic water bottles are the most frequently recycled PET beverage container in curbside recycling programs. Source: IBWA

Learn more about the importance of recycling plastics.

Myth #6: The bottled water industry is taking water from places in other parts of the world that need it.

Fact: Over 98% of bottled water sold in the U.S. is sourced domestically.

Anti-bottled water groups sometimes correlate the production of bottled water to the lack of access to safe drinking water in other parts of the world. The truth is that 98% of the bottled water sold in the United States is sourced locally. The bottled water industry does not withdraw water from areas where it is scarce. In fact, many in the bottled water industry regularly donate bottled water to those living in parts of the world where clean drinking water is hard to come by, or when natural disasters occur and municipal drinking water becomes contaminated.

Additional Bottled Water Facts:

  • States east of the Mississippi river have an abundance of fresh water.
  • Bottled water suppliers mostly withdraw water from water-rich states, keeping prices low.
  • Bottling water in water-rich states and shipping it westward helps reduce water withdrawals in drier western regions with shrinking fresh water supplies.

Myth #7: Bottled water is 1,000 times more expensive than tap water.

Fact: Bottled water is available at many different price points, most of which are very affordable.

Critics of bottled water usually cite the cost of bottled water at the highest price points they can find. However, information from the Beverage Marketing Corporation suggests that bottled waters at those high price points are the least purchased by the average consumer, and most consumers typically purchase lower cost bottled water in bulk.

Myth #8: Only one person at the FDA oversees regulation for the whole bottled water industry.

Fact: The FDA’s oversight of the bottled water industry is carried out at The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN), which has over 800 employees.

The Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition staffs highly specialized professionals. These professionals, along with their support staff, oversee both the enactment and enforcement of regulations for the bottled water industry. A significant amount of this work is also handled by FDA regional offices in individual states. It is these regional locations that handle the direct inspections and enforcement operations.

Myth #9: The production of bottled water is draining our water supplies.

Fact: The production of bottled water accounts for no more than 0.02% of the total groundwater withdrawn in the U.S. each year.

According to a 2005 study by the Drinking Water Research Foundation (DWRF), less than 0.02% of all groundwater withdrawn from the U.S. each year ends up in bottles. In 2001, a similar report from the DWRF found that on average more than 87% of the water withdrawn by bottled water companies was put into bottles for consumption, indicating the bottling process is highly efficient and wastes little water.

Myth #10: Water bottles pose a health risk to consumers.

Fact: The FDA has deemed all containers used by the bottled water industry as safe for use with food and beverage products.

The bottles used for bottled water, like all packaging material used for food, must be comprised only of substances approved by the FDA for food contact. That means the plastic and glass containers used for bottled water are made from the same materials that are used to package other food products. These materials were all closely scrutinized by the FDA before being approved for use in the marketplace.