Many bottled water customers reside in countries with sophisticated tap water systems but opt to pay a high premium for bottled water—up to 1000 times the cost of tap water. The United States is the world’s greatest user of bottled water, with Italians drinking the most per capita.
People in impoverished countries are increasingly relying on bottled water to meet their necessities. Between 1999 and 2004, China’s per capita use of bottled water quadrupled and India’s tripled.
Water shops are privately held enterprises that serve a similar gap to bottled water by providing clean, consistent water to locations where municipal distribution systems are unreliable or nonexistent. Water is obtained from a number of sources, including private wells and municipal water systems, at these establishments. Customers must bring this water from the business to their houses in their own containers, which they sell at a premium.
The quality of bottled water and water from water stores varies substantially. Natural spring water is used in various bottled water brands, including those prominent in industrialized countries.
Wells and even municipal water systems are other sources of bottled and water store supplies. These waters are sometimes treated and enhanced before being sold, and sometimes they aren’t.
Even untreated or polluted water can be sold in bottles or through water stores in some circumstances. Furthermore, bottled water is very costly. While the water itself is inexpensive, the cost of bottled water is increased by labor, plastic bottles, shipping, and marketing. There are other expenses associated with the environment. Plastic bottles are created from nonrenewable resources such as oil and natural gas. Furthermore, the majority of plastic bottles are not recycled, posing a huge disposal issue.
Both bottled water and water outlets are market-driven enterprises. They fill a need left by insufficient municipal networks by charging fees that often climb to whatever the consumer market would bear. These prices might be disproportionately expensive for impoverished individuals as compared to what their richer counterparts pay for municipal services.