Excerpt: 'Bottled & Sold' By Peter H. Gleick

These attacks could be dismissed as the inappropriate actions of a few small players, except that some of the world's biggest bottlers have also targeted tap water. In 2000, shortly before he was made chairman of PepsiCo's North American Beverage and Food division, Robert S. Morrison publicly declared, "The biggest enemy is tap water. . . . We're not against water—it just has its place. We think it's good for irrigation and cooking." 6 That same year, Susan Wellington, president of the Quaker Oats Company's United States beverage division, candidly told industry analysts, "When we're done, tap water will be relegated to showers and washing dishes." 7 "We need to change the way we sell water," said industry analyst Kathleen Ransome at the 2006 International Bottled Water Association annual convention in Las Vegas. "At what point will consumers turn to the tap?" 8

Subtler advertising approaches also play on our fears. PepsiCo hired actress Lisa Kudrow to promote Aquafina with the phrase "So pure, we promise nothing" in a campaign Brandweek magazine jokingly called the "Nothing" campaign. 9 Kinley in India offers "Trust in every drop," while another Indian bottler, Bisleri, advertises "Bisleri. Play safe."

Officially, the large bottled water industry associations advise their members to refrain from attacks on tap water. Some bottled water companies have signed up to the International Bottled Water Association's voluntary code of advertising, "which encourages members not to disparage tap water."10 Alas, as Captain Barbossa notes in the popular movie Pirates of the Caribbean, "the code is more what you'd call 'guidelines' than actual rules," and even the bottled water associations cannot resist making critical comments about tap water. "The difference between bottled water and tap water is that bottled water's quality is consistent," said Stephen Kay, IBWA spokesman in May 2001, implying, of course, that tap water quality isn't and thus worse.11 In 2002, Kay said, "Some people in their municipal markets have the luxury of good water. Others do not."12 Similarly, the website of the Australasian Bottled Water Association pokes barbs at tap water, saying, "Some people also wish to avoid certain chemicals used in the treatment of public water supplies, such as chlorine and fluoride, and are therefore turning to the chemical-free alternative."13

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