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

These documents, very quickly pulled from official websites when the media picked up the story, had already been downloaded and reposted elsewhere. "This is awesome," commented one reader. "It's what corporations say to each other behind customers' backs, only it happens to be on the Web where mortals can see it."19

It isn't just bottled water companies that have tap water in their sights. Full-service restaurants have recognized the profit-generating potential of bottled water. Servers in restaurants operated by the Omni Hotels and Resorts, for example, are trained to describe "the characteristics of the waters being offered and are also trained to approach the table with chilled bottles of water. They offer it to the guest as an option to tap water," according to Fernando Salazar, corporate director of the food and beverage division in 2006. "It's just part of the server's presentation to offer bottled water first before offering tap water," says Salazar. "Those restaurants that are not yet doing this are missing an opportunity to increase profits." 20

Brita, a subsidiary of the Clorox Company that sells home water filters, has also been particularly aggressive in maligning tap water, which is their direct competitor in the home market. One of Brita's advertising campaigns claimed that a Brita filter "turns tap water into drinking water." Other Brita ads say, "We'd like to clear up a few things about tap water." "Tap water becomes wonderful water." "Too often, impurities are finding their way into the water. While you may not be able to see them, you don't want them."21 One of Brita's television ads aired in the United States and Canada took a particularly graphic approach, with the camera focused on a glass of water in a kitchen. Viewers watch the glass drain and then refill to the background sound of a flushing toilet. Superimposed on the image were the words "Tap and toilet water come from the same source," and the voice-over at the end of the commercial asked viewers: "Don't you deserve better?" In the magazine version, the advertising copy read, "You deserve better than the water you mop with." 22

These efforts sparked the ire of both the American Water Works Association, which represents municipal water agencies, and its Canadian counterpart. The Associations publicly objected to Brita's "unsavory tactics" and called on Brita to cancel the commercials. Advertising Standards Canada, which regulates advertising, received eleven formal complaints and after reviewing the ads ruled that they "conveyed an inaccurate representation of a product/service/ commercial activity; omitted relevant information; unfairly demeaned, disparaged, and discredited another product/service/commercial activity (i.e., municipally supplied water); and misled consumers by playing upon their fears of the safety of drinking water."23

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