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The impacts of bottled water: an analysis of bottled water markets and their interactions with tap water provision

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The phenomenal recent growth of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottled water is distinctively different from previous bottled mineral water markets that have been around for centuries. Plastic bottled water (hereafter BW) has been marketed as a fast moving consumer good, as a healthy drinking choice and, increasingly, as a safer alternative to existing drinking water. BW markets emerged in response to several key factors: changes in consumer drinking practices; opportunistic strategies on the part of beverage companies to diversify into water; the development of PET bottles; the intensification of sophisticated branding techniques; and various drinking water scares ranging from state failure to water quality controversies. In many cities with safe drinking water BW has faced significant opposition. While this opposition appears to have done little to halt market growth it has prompted a whole new terrain of drinking water politics. These politics foreground the effects of representing and delivering drinking water as an individualized good versus distribution via reticulated networks in which consumers gain access to a collective service. However, activist critiques of BW can sometimes miss the subtle ways in which bottles are ontologically interfering with the political and public health values of safe tap water. These impacts are complex and highly variable according to the specific context of existing drinking water provision and hydrocultures and the ways in which bottles interact with these. Understanding these interactions could help limit the capacity of bottled water markets to undermine the ongoing commitment to safe collective water provision in the interest of the common good. WIREs Water 2017, 4:e1203. doi: 10.1002/wat2.1203 This article is categorized under: Human Water > Rights to Water Human Water > Value of Water Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation

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Engineering Water > Water, Health, and Sanitation

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