Bottled water sales dry up; industry asks ‘why?’

Consumer backlash begins to bite, but recession also likely to blame

Image: Discarded water bottles

Karen Bleier / AFP-Getty Images file
A debate over water is boiling over in the United States and elsewhere amid growing environmental concerns about bottled water and questions about safety of tap water.
By Jennifer Alsever contributor
updated 12:08 p.m. ET, Fri., Dec . 18, 2009// <![CDATA[//

Heather Lewis was wracked with guilt when she realized she was addicted to the bottle.

Bottled water, that is.

At her worst, she said she went through five plastic bottles of water a day nearly every day for two years.

“It was appalling,” said Lewis, an architect from Louisville, Colo. “I felt like Aquafina’s trained monkey.”But one day in January, as she gazed at the piles of plastic in her recycling bin, she decided to quit. “It was a cumulative sense of responsibility that made me do it,” Lewis said

Lewis is part of a bigger backlash against bottled water happening across the nation, and after decades of growth, the $11 billion industry is stuttering.

After steady expansion that saw U.S. per capita consumption grow from less than two gallons a year to a peak of 29 in 2007, bottled water sales slipped 3.2 percent in 2008 and are projected to dip another 2 percent this year, according to estimates by the Beverage Marketing Corporation, a New York research and consulting firm.

The primary cause of the decline is hotly contested. Continue reading

12:30am: Battle over water still unresolved

Special to the Record-Eagle

Published: December 14, 2009 12:30 am

LANSING — Environmental interests in Michigan said the fight to stop privatization of part of Michigan’s water resources isn’t done.

Following a courtroom battle between Nestle Waters North America and environmental groups over a bottling plant in Mecosta County, the organizations are pressing state lawmakers for steps to preserve Great Lakes waters.

“We don’t want to destroy the beauty and wonder for the Great Lakes by bottling it and then selling it to other countries or states,” said Linda Berker of Davison, the Sierra Club’s Nepessing Group’s conservation chair. “Our legal structures should act to preserve the water.” Continue reading

In Bolivia, Water and Ice Tell of Climate Change

Published: December 13, 2009

EL ALTO, Bolivia — When the tap across from her mud-walled home dried up in September, Celia Cruz stopped making soups and scaled back washing for her family of five. She began daily pilgrimages to better-off neighborhoods, hoping to find water there.

Though she has lived here for a decade and her husband, a construction worker, makes a decent wage, money cannot buy water.

“I’m thinking of moving back to the countryside; what else can I do?” said Ms. Cruz, 33, wearing traditional braids and a long tiered skirt as she surveyed a courtyard dotted with piglets, bags of potatoes and an ancient red Datsun. “Two years ago this was never a problem. But if there’s not water, you can’t live.”

The glaciers that have long provided water and electricity to this part of Bolivia are melting and disappearing, victims of global warming, most scientists say.

If the water problems are not solved, El Alto, a poor sister city of La Paz, could perhaps be the first large urban casualty of climate change. A World Bank report concluded last year that climate change would eliminate many glaciers in the Andes within 20 years, threatening the existence of nearly 100 million people. Continue reading