What’s in the bottle, Dallas?
A little bit of nature is what Gary Dunlap bought into when he scooped up a case of bottled water at his neighborhood Walmart. Then he took a closer look and found that the stuff in the bottle came from a municipal water supply. “I was just surprised that Walmart was selling this municipal water,” said Dunlap, who is an accountant from Keller.
It turns out Walmart was just being honest about something some bottled water companies don’t even tell you. The stuff in the bottles originates at the tap.
In Walmart’s case, the water is Niagara — not from Niagara Falls, or even company headquarters in California — but from a local plant in Grand Prairie. Kroger’s bottles don’t say where their water is sourced, but it’s Dallas City water from Irving. Aquafina’s bottle says their product comes from “public water sources.” A company spokesman says it’s Dallas water from Mesquite.
Tom Thumb’s brand, Refreshe’, doesn’t reveal its source. It’s bottled by Advanced H20 near Duncanville. Dasani, a division of Coca-Cola doesn’t give a clue where it comes from on the bottle. Headquarters says that its source is Dallas water mains. Nestle Pure Life’s label does say its source is public water supplies, Dallas, Texas.
So why pay up to 20 cents a bottle and more for something that costs a fraction of a cent when it comes out of the tap? Water bottlers will tell you do they add value to the liquid — from laborious processing to as many as 14 additional steps that make city water better.
“They usually run it through an activated carbon filter, and then some of them take another step and they run it through a reverse osmosis which removes more contaminants, industrial or agricultural contaminants and all the minerals,” explained Elizabeth Royte, author of “Bottlemania.”
“Some of them also expose the water to ultraviolet light and to ozonation, which utilizes the gas ozone, to sterilize it,” Royte added.
She said many bottlers strip minerals out of the water during their own purification process and then add them back later in to improve taste.
Dallas water officials point out that city water goes through filtration, chlorination and purification in several stages, too, and is certified safe by both the federal government and the State of Texas.
While it costs money for the bottlers to process it further, the product they sell is dozens of times more expensive.
A lot of that money goes to putting it on trucks, taking it to supermarkets, and then convincing you to buy it. “You may just be paying for the advertising campaign,” Royte said.
And then there’s the bottle. Not only does it cost money at first, but it keeps on costing.
“About 25 percent of plastic bottles are recycled, and the rest are buried in landfills — or they’re burned or they’re littered, they work their way into parks and woods,” Royte said.
Some field tests show that drinkers often can’t taste the difference between one brand of water and another — nor can they distinguish between the bottled product and tap water.
Nonetheless, North Texas bottlers are putting enough water to fill 60 Olympic swimming pools into 40 million plastic bottles every month.
For them, that’s the taste of money