The Story of Bottled Water


Take a 7 minute journey of how "Manufactured Demand" pushes what we don't need and destroys what we need most. The film explores the bottled water industry's attacks on tap water safety and its use of seductive, environmental-themed marketing to cover up the mountains of plastic waste it produces. Watch

From the creators of "The Story of Stuff Project".


What You Should Know About Bottled Water

Bottled water is convenient when you're at home, on the go, in the office, exercising, and traveling. Most people know they need to drink a good deal of water to stay healthy, and many choose bottled water. The following information from the National Consumer League explains what you should know about bottled water, the importance of hydration, how bottled water is regulated, the steps taken to ensure its safety and quality, and the types of bottled water.

Regulation of bottled water

Whether bottled water is packaged in small containers sold in a store or in coolers in the home and office, federal and state governments regulate it, and the industry also has standards that member companies must follow to help ensure consumers enjoy a safe, high quality product.


While the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates tap water as a utility, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates bottled water as a packaged food product. FDA bottled water regulations include:

Standard of Identity: FDA requires uniform use of terms like "purified" and "spring," so consumers can be sure different companies use the same descriptions consistently on their product labels. For example, a bottle marked "spring water" must be from a spring. One-fourth of bottled water comes from municipal sources, rather than a spring or well. The FDA requires these products be labeled "from a community water system" or "from a municipal source." However, if this water goes through a purification process such as distillation or reverse osmosis, FDA has determined that the product can be defined by the type of purification (i.e.; "drinking water"), rather than as from a municipal source.

Current Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs): for both general food and bottled water-specific categories. General GMPs govern plant and ground maintenance and facility sanitation. Bottled water-specific GMPs cover plant construction and design, equipment design and production, process controls specific to bottled water, and extensive record keeping. They also require safe and sanitary transportation and storage.

Standard of Quality (SOQ): Along with Good Manufacturing Practices, SOQs are specific bottled water product standards that help ensure safety from production and packaging to consumption. To ensure compliance, companies must test for pesticides, minerals, and physical properties such as color. By law, FDA bottled water SOQs must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as EPA's standards for public water supplies.

Bottled Water is also subject to FDA food recall, mislabeling, and adulteration provisions.


States also regulate bottled water. They are responsible for inspecting, sampling, analyzing, and approving water sources. States certify testing laboratories and perform unannounced and annual inspections. Some states have unique bottled water regulations, and many base their regulations on FDA, and in some cases, industry-based standards.


The bottled water industry has developed standards through a trade association. The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) requires members to follow the IBWA Model Code, which includes annual, unannounced third-party plant inspections. The inspectors audit quality and testing records, review plant operations, and check member companies for compliance with federal and state regulations, as well as IBWA's standards.

Labeling of bottled water

Because it is regulated by FDA as a packaged food product, bottled water products must include consumer contact information on the label so consumers can get brand-specific information from the bottler, distributor, or packer.

In addition to Standard of Identity requirements, bottled water companies must follow the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA), which sets rules for labels including: serving sizes, format, and placement of the label on the food package. NLEA helps consumers be sure that the nutritional information appearing on bottled water and all other food packages, will be uniform, easy to understand, and meaningful. Standardized labeling is useful to people with dietary restrictions and those concerned about monitoring intake of essential daily nutrients.

Types of bottled water

Here's a rundown on the types of water you're likely to find bottled and on the shelf.

Artesian Water or Artesian Well Water
Bottled water from a well that taps a confined aquifer in which water stands at some height above the aquifer. These wells are created when pressure builds from beneath the earth's surface and forces water to flow to the surface.

Drinking Water
Another name for bottled water; sold for human consumption in sanitary containers and has no sweeteners or chemical additives. It must be calorie-free and sugar-free. Flavors or essences may be added to the water, but they must comprise less than one percent by weight of the final product.

Mineral Water
Water that comes from a source tapped at one or more bore holes or springs, which comes from a geologically and physically protected underground water source. Mineral water is distinguished from other types of bottled water by its constant level of mineral and other trace elements at the point of emergence (bore hole or spring) from the source. No minerals can be added to this product to be classified as "mineral water."

Purified Water
Water produced by distillation, deionization, reverse osmosis, or other suitable processes that meet the definition of purified water in the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-government organization that develops standards to ensure the quality of medicines and health care technologies. Purified water can also be called "distilled water," "deionized water," or "reverse osmosis water," depending on the process used.

Sparkling Water
Bottled water that contains the same amount of carbon dioxide that it had directly at the source. This category does not include "soda water" or "seltzer water."