Bottles of waterYou would think being an island surrounded by sea and with over 3,000 miles of navigable waterways in the UK, that we would have no trouble in maintaining a healthy flow of water consumption … it seems not, or at least not without parting unnecessarily from a considerable amount of money.

The human body is 75% water; the brain is composed of 75-85% and the muscles 70% so quite clearly water is essential to maintaining every human process.

But our problem, unlike a camel, is our inability to retain water and the body loses around five pints each day, one of those just through breathing!

But why do we shun conventional tap water for an expensive alternative?


In 2007 the University of Nottingham carried out a survey and found the UK consumed 3 billion litres of bottled water per year and they predicted it would be the fastest growing drinks market in the world.

By 2010 UK consumers each drank 33 litres of bottled water per year and it is expected that sales will rise to an annual £2 billion by 2016 with flavoured and vitamin enriched water driving demand as people become more health conscious.

30% of bottled water sold in UK supermarkets is tap
water and described as ‘table water’

The average price of bottled water is 40p/litre (20% is VAT) and the average person will spend £25,000 on bottled water and soft drinks during their lifetime.

Compare this with the cost of tap water; Thames Water calculates the cost of turning on your tap is 0.0097p/litre which equates to roughly 1p for a full bucket of water, making the cost of bottled water roughly 500 times the price.


But it’s not just the cost to the consumer; the planet is also paying a very heavy price.

The University of Nottingham study found that 13 billion plastic bottles were sold but only 3 billion recycled. Recent records show the UK alone used 18 billion plastic bottles with less than a quarter being recycled: 38 million went into landfill and once there, they can take up to 450 years to decompose.

To manufacture a one litre PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) bottle, 162g of oil (virgin petroleum) and 7 litres of water are used. Put another way, the oil used is enough to heat 32,000 homes for a year.

You might also wish to consider the Formaldehyde that is used in PET bottle production.

It’s not just what is used that is cause for concern, but also the by-product: 160g of CO2 per litre, giving the bottled water industry a massive carbon footprint of 350,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions.

A litre of tap water accounts for 0.0003kg of CO2 emissions.

So you would think with this much overwhelming evidence that bottled water is damaging in so many ways that people would stop this frenzy, but it seems not.

Research shows those aged between 25-34 are the biggest consumers and that demographic has the greatest influence and probably buying power, and the same research shows people think bottled water not only tastes better but is the healthier option.

Flavoured water contains Aspartame (a source of Phenylalanine)
and Acesulfame-K (possibly carcinogenic) as well as preservatives
E211 (Sodium benzoate) and E202 (Potassium sorbate)

It would therefore seem that having been coaxed into the novelty of bottled water 20+ years ago, we are now the driving force behind increased sales. But for my part, I will continue to demand a jug of tap water in the restaurant and fill my reusable drink bottle from the tap whenever I head out of doors.

And as for that camel, we may not be able to sell sand to the Arabs, but it seems they can sell water to the Brits; Highland Spring water sales overtook Evian as the UK’s top selling brand of bottled water. Perthshire based Highland Spring is owned by the Al-Tajir family from Dubai.


  • UK water industry has 1,584 boreholes, 666 reservoirs and 602 river abstractions
  • UK tap water is one of the safest in the world and is checked 30,000 times per year for chemicals and bacteria
  • Recommended water intake is 1.2 litres per day
  • Only PET marked bottles can be recycled
Water Water Everywhere But Not A Drop To Drink

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