Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Water Game

OK, I'm old fashioned. I don't see the sense in buying bottled water. I see people pay a buck or more when there's a drinking fountain right there for free, and it just drives me crazy.

Oh, it's so much better, you say.

Both Coke and Pepsi have their brands. Coca-Cola sells Dasani and Pepsi markets Aquafina.

UK's The Economist has a pretty good story about this;
SO THE emperor really isn’t wearing any clothes. Last week PepsiCo announced that the label on its Aquafina brand of bottled water will soon carry the words “public water source”, instead of simply the innocent looking “P.W.S.”. That’s right: Aquafina is to all intents and purposes tap water. Coca-Cola is under pressure to follow suit with its Dasani brand, though so far it is refusing to do so. “We don’t believe that consumers are confused about the source of Dasani water,” Diana Garza Ciarlante, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, said. “The label clearly states that it is purified water.”

No doubt Coca-Cola still remembers what happened in Britain in 2004, when the press made a stink over the fact that Dasani was simply filtered tap water. The company became a laughing stock, as readers were reminded of an episode of a popular TV comedy, “Only Fools and Horses”. In it Del Boy, a decidedly dodgy businessman, decides to bottle tap water, selling it as “Peckham Spring”, named after the unprepossessing inner-London borough. No sooner had the initial furore died down than Coca-Cola discovered that some of the water had been contaminated betwixt tap and bottle, and decided to admit defeat. Dasani was axed in Britain a mere five weeks after it was launched. Bottled water and snake oil

So, can you believe that? They put P.W.S. on the bottle as if that told you you were paying top dollar for tapwater. Public water source. It's like something P.T. Barnum would do. I can think of a million things "P.W.S." could stand for, public water source does not spring to mind, you might say.

Q: Do these guys think we're idiots?
A: Yes.

Q: Are they right?
A: Discuss among yourselves.

This article has some fun and interesting observations. Like:
The success of bottled water is in many ways one of capitalism’s greatest mysteries. Studies show consistently that tap water is purer than many bottled waters—not including those that contain only tap water, which by some estimates is 40% of the total by volume. The health benefits that are claimed for some bottled waters are unproven, at best. By volume, bottled water often costs 1,000 times the price of tap water. Indeed, even with oil prices sky high, a litre of bottled water can cost more than a litre of petrol. And on top of that, there are the environmental costs of transporting bottled water and of manufacturing and disposing of the bottles.

Yet sales of bottled water have been booming. In 2006 Americans spent nearly $11 billion buying 8.25 billion gallons (31.2 billion litres) of the stuff, an increase in volume of 9.5% on a year earlier. The average American drank 27.6 gallons of bottled water last year, up from 16.7 gallons in 2000.

As an inherently lazy person, I have always admired people who do things like earthworm farming, say, where you basically didn't do anything for your money. You put some worms in some dirt, and later you dig them up. So I am not really against the idea that somebody would pour tapwater into a bottle and charge people a lot for it.

At the same time, yeah it's nice that somebody makes a living by putting rainwater, or tapwater, in a bottle, but ... hey, I can remember when a bottle of water was a dime. Same as a Coke. Just joking, a dime is still a hundred times what a drink of water actually costs if you pour it from the faucet yourself. Crazy stuff, weird and wacky times we live in.


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