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Bottled water is fighting back

Juliana Barbassa
Associated Press
Vail, CO Colorado

SAN FRANCISCO ” Bottled water is fighting back.

The industry’s reputation took a hit this summer as restaurants, church associations and cities led by San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom extolled the virtues of the tap and swore off the bottle, denouncing it as an expensive and environmentally unsound extravagance that leaves millions of empty plastic shells in its wake.

Now, an association of water bottlers is defending their reputation with full-page ads in The New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle that fend of criticism and recast the debate.

No one should dissuade consumers from drinking water in a country where diabetes, obesity and heart disease are threatening public health, said Joe Doss, chief executive of the International Bottled Water Association.

“It’s not a bottled water vs. tap water issue,” Doss said. “Water is a very healthy drink that shouldn’t be discouraged.”

The ads also remind consumers that drinking out of portable containers has become a national practice in this on-the-go society, and isn’t limited to water.

Plus, in recent years the industry has taken steps to make thinner bottles that are fully recyclable. The big water containers used in offices and homes are reusable, and the industry is supportive of efforts to improve plastic recycling, Doss said.

The numbers show Americans have been buying into their argument. As the population increasingly swears off the calories in sugary drinks, bottled water sales have grown to match their thirst, ballooning from 18.8 gallons a year per person in 2001 to 28.3 gallons per person annually five years later, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

But critics haven’t been swayed by the industry’s latest campaign, calling the ads just another attempt by corporations to polish their image and promote a product that isn’t necessary.

Concerned over the waste piling up in municipal landfills, and the greenhouse gases emitted by the production and transportation of bottles, and the expense to taxpayers, Newsom stopped city departments from buying bottled water in June.

In July, he led the U.S. Conference of Mayors in a resolution praising the stuff that flows from the tap and calling for a study on the environmental impact of bottled water.

Consumer groups who have long called for accountability from the bottled water industry agree the ads are a defense tactic at a time when consumers are asking more questions about what’s actually in the bottle.

Last week, PepsiCo Inc., which produces the top-selling water brand Aquafina, became the latest company to come clean about the source of its water.

The company announced it would change the labels to make it clear that their water, like that in Coca-Cola Co.’s Dasani and Nestle Waters North America’s Pure Life, comes from a public water source.

“The industry is coming under pressure,” said Gigi Kellett, director of a campaign to educate the public on the problems with the bottled water industry by the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International. “People are asking questions, and the bottled water association is rolling out a campaign to polish their image.”

Headline: Water bottlers defend their reputation with full-page ads

Category: A

Creation Date: 8/3/2007 15:58:14 Submit Date: 8/3/2007 16:00:01

By Line: By JULIANA BARBASSA Title: Associated Press Writer

Object Name: WATER WARS

ID: p0731

Source: The Associated Press Credit: (AP)

File Type: text/xml


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