My Soapbox on Bottled Water

When I was reporting at Business First back in the ’90s, I wrote a column saying that the marketing of bottled water was the biggest scam ever foisted on the American public. My reasoning was that these marketers from big corporations like Coca-Cola and Pepsico had somehow been able to convince regular folks to purchase something in a bottle they could get for free out of the tap. Perrier was really popular. Brilliant!

The marketers of the product touted specious health benefits, and studies pointed to the benefits of drinking water, and Americans lined up to buy. Suckers!

Despite my influential column, bottled water sales in the U.S. skyrocketed, reaching $5 billion between 2003 and 2008. 7 of 10 Americans say they drink it. I see people buying those cases of it at Kroger.

Here’s some good news.  Pressure from environmental groups, combined with tight-fisted Americans suffering in the economy, led to the first decline in bottled water sales in five years, according to a story in the Washington Post.

My ’90s column touted the quality of the Louisville Water Company’s product, which I recall at the time was rated among the country’s cleanest and safest.  In fact, the company began promoting its water under the “Pure Tap” label in 1996. I have mixed feelings about Pure Tap. At least they’re using regular water, and they do a great job of marketing bottles to groups and at events, and they pretty much give it away, but they’re still using plastic bottles.

Today there’s a press conference marking Pure Tap’s 15th anniversary, and the Mayor is going to be at the Water Tower talking about what a successful idea it was to be the only water utility in the country to bottle its own water, just like the expensive stuff you get at Kroger. I hope he’ll encourage folks to refill their bottles, rather than buying new ones that will end up at a landfill.

The Louisville Sports Commission is a part of the ceremony, announcing a new partnership, so that’s all just bubbly, too.