In Tap Water We Trust
In the lead-up to National Drinking Water Week, a news article about French consumer confidence in tap water grabbed our attention. The survey found that 80% of respondents “trust” the water coming from their taps. Similarly 74% of respondents are satisfied with the quality of the water in their home and 69% appreciate the taste.
We had incorrectly associated Perrier and Evian with what we assumed to be a bottled water tradition or preference in France. Maybe French spring water isn’t tres chic after all. Maybe Americans are the ones who are hooked on bottled water.
Consider this: in recent U.S. surveys, only 53% of municipal water customers said they are likely to drink tap water versus bottled or otherwise filtered water. What gives?
In an interview last year with Duke University professor and author James Salzman, the From the Source Blog asked this very question. If our water in the U.S. is among the cleanest in the world, why is bottled water so prevalent?
The answer, in summary, was that water choices like many other ones, are influenced heavily by marketing. And very good marketing at that: bottled water sells for up to 1,000 times the price of tap water.
Salzman found in his research for Drinking Water: A History that since the early 90s when Coke, Pepsi and Nestle entered the bottled water market and the consumption of bottled water skyrocketed, Americans have seemingly had an ambivalent relationship with tap water. Whereas in the 70s, if someone went into a gas station and asked for water they would have been directed to the hose outside.
On the flip side, and in more recent history, many environmental groups – in New York and San Francisco, for example – have used public relations campaigns to raise awareness of the environmental impact of bottled water.
To their credit, environmental groups have raised the level of consumer consciousness and have pressed the bottled water industry to be more responsible in their packaging. Environmental pressure is leading to a change in fashion. For example, those who want to live a more environmentally conscious lifestyle have taken to drinking tap water from a refillable bottle.
We’re curious about your water preferences: please share your thoughts on the comment section below!