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"We sell water ... so we've got to be clever."
SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT OF NESTLE WATERS' GLOBAL MARKETING AND COMMUNICATIONS DIVISION
IT OFTEN SELLS FOR three times the price of gasoline, and more and more of us are guzzling it--even though we can get the equivalent for next to nothing simply by tapping into the publicly owned infrastructure. It's bottled water, and it's a lucrative business. But why would we pay 240 to 10,000 times more for something that we can get for less than a penny by simply turning on a tap?
Marketing has a lot to do with it. As public concern over the state of the environment grows, private companies are quick to exploit those concerns with expensive individual solutions of dubious merit.
Bottled water sales are on the rise. A December 2006 report published by Sustain, a sustainable food and farming group, claims that bottled water consumption worldwide has increased 250 percent (from 58 billion litres in 1994 to 144 billion in 2002), largely as a result of successful marketing. The report says that bottled water is marketed as a fashion accessory for health-conscious consumers with discerning palates. Laurie Ries, a marketing consultant quoted in the Polaris Institute's 2005 "Inside the Bottle" report, describes bottled water as "America's most affordable status symbol."
As bottled water is sold to the upper and middle classes, support for public drinking water infrastructure begins to trickle away. In 2001, the bottled water industry fought and won a dispute over a bill proposed to impose a five-cent tax on every bottle of water sold in Texas to fund improvements in the public water infrastructure. The same …