Global Bottled Water Industry: A Review of Impacts and Trends

The global bottled water industry has experienced meteoric growth in the last 50 years, becoming a major economic sector. The United Nations University Institute of Water Environment and Health and McMaster University have released a report titled “Global Bottled Water Industry: A Review of Impacts and Trends: Important Findings.” According to the report, the growth of the industry is masking a significant global problem – the failure of public systems to provide reliable drinking water for all.

Impact of the Bottled Water Industry

The expansion of the bottled water industry hinders progress towards achieving the key Sustainable Development Goal of providing reliable drinking water. The report notes that the industry’s growth adversely affects investments and the role of the state in developing and improving long-term public water supply infrastructure. Investments that could have gone towards improving public water systems are diverted towards the bottled water industry, resulting in limited progress in providing clean and reliable water to those who need it most. The report suggests that half of what the world spends on bottled water each year could provide clean water to millions of people without it.

Water Depletion

The report also highlights the industry’s high consumption of water and the depletion of groundwater sources. The primary source of water bottled globally is groundwater, which is a precious resource. The report cites examples of the industry extracting groundwater in the United States and France, resulting in depletion of natural recharge. Over two billion people worldwide rely on groundwater as their primary water source. The report notes that in some areas, the amount of groundwater extracted exceeds the amount naturally recharged, leading to groundwater depletion. It further states that fifteen percent of all extracted groundwater is non-renewable. Global groundwater depletion has varied between 56 to 362 cubic kilometers per year over the last three decades.

Bottled Water Industry in Different Regions

The Asia-Pacific region constitutes about half of the global bottled water market, and the Global South countries together make up about 60 percent. The United States, China, and Indonesia combined make up half of the global market, with Germany being the biggest market in Europe, Mexico in the Latin America and the Caribbean region, and South Africa in Africa. Singapore and Australia stand out as the leaders in both annual revenue and volume of bottled water sold per capita, with the USA and China per capita indicators being much smaller.



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