Next time you visit your favorite place to shop for groceries, take a moment and take stock of how much shelf space is taken up by one of our best new friends, Bottled Water. Hey BW! Look at you taking up all that valuable store real estate, and it really wasn’t all that difficult to get you there in the first place. Well, okay…let me break that off-the-cuff remark down a bit. Unlike many other products that you will place in your cart during your visit, water doesn’t come with a list of ingredients, because it’s…well, it’s water, right? The stuff that’s in water is…yeah, water. What’s so hard about that? The label won’t ever read “Two parts Hydrogen, one part Oxygen.” Sure, there are actual labeling requirements for agua, but they don’t need to be discussed here.

Anyway, the question was rhetorical. We know it’s hard to make bottled water, sort of…

You’ve got to have a place to put the water in the bottle, so there’s your factory.

You probably want to set up this facility very close to the source of the water you’re going to bottle, so there’s more to think about right there, and you’ve already bought yourself a boatload of red tape, anyway, so just keep going.

Probably need to get all kinds of permits, audits, studies, licenses, environmental impact statements, you know the drill. I guess you’ll have to be big biz before you ever get started. I’m guessing this aint no enterprise for the little guy.

Have to figure out how you’re going to purify your product…reverse osmosis, distillation, deionization, ultra violet light. Gosh, sounds expensive, but you’ve got a few attorneys you’re working with.

Run all that paperwork past the proper authorities, figure out where your market is, get those distribution trucks revved up, and boom, watch the profits come rolling in.

Okay, I don’t really have a clue about the nuts and bolts of bottling water, but I don’t need to because that’s not the point of this post. I want you, my reader, to think about a few key points here.

First, reach back into your memory banks and try to recall the first time you ever heard of “bottled water.” Give up? Me too.

First time you bought a bottled water? Drawing a blank again?

First time you wondered about all those plastic bottles getting tossed in the landfill and feeling queasy?

First time you realized that you were hooked on the whole idea of bottled water…preferred it over tap, no matter what…liked the way the bottle looked in your hand, in your cooler, in your status-driven life?

First time you confessed that without bottled water as an option in any given day, you’d be lost, unsure of how you would even feel if you had to take your repurposed coffee mug and hold it under the faucet in your company’s breakroom. It just feels so wrong (the smell of chlorine in your nostrils makes you feel small and insignificant!)

We probably can’t remember any of these instances mentioned above because bottled water has become so pervasive in the American psyche that we simply can’t recall when it wasn’t there within easy reach, no matter where we were or what we were doing. Bottled water is here to stay…for now.

For me, I have a vague memory of Perrier water being somewhat of a novelty on the shelves maybe going back as far as the mid-1980s. It’s French (sort of, but I’ll let you research the parent company…hint, I think it’s Nestle), it’s green, it’s carbonated, and I believe it to still carry at least some of the prestige it once held. After all (and maybe I’m wrong), does the common Jane or John on the street reach for a Perrier when they want something to quench their thirst while they jog or bike or lift or whatever? No, it’s going to be something cheap, something they may not even be loyal to. As long as it serves the purpose of rehydrating, they’re good to go. Plus, it had better be encased in plastic, because glass doesn’t fare well on concrete (I’m always behind the times…apparently you can get the “french” stuff in plastic, too. They should market it as Perrier PET, but maybe then the symbol of superiority suffers).

Anyway, I’ll bet you can rattle off at least 10 different brands of the crystal clear elixir without even trying, can’t you? And why wouldn’t you? We use it all day, every day, right? I personally do not care in the least what the brand on the bottle is, as long as the price is right. Bottled water isn’t cool anymore, it’s just necessary, and there’s the point of my post.

The cheapest bottle of the stuff you can find (and I’m even including the gallon jugs stocked in any major retail chain anywhere across the country, and on sale, too) is still going to be much much…much more expensive than the equivalent amount coming out of your own tap. Welcome to the big business of bottled water. Did you ever think we could be so bamboozled?

Question: have you ever been at a zoo, amusement park, concert, or whatever type of event you care to name, and found yourself willingly paying upwards of $3-5 for a standard size bottle of water (16 ounces, give or take), even in plain sight of a drinking fountain, offering essentially the same product for FREE? Why?

How did we get here? Marketing. How do we get out? Three options to consider:

  • The market naturally dries up because demand fizzles away (least likely of the three).
  • Government intervenes, slapping big fines on any bottled water company that doesn’t provide alternatives to customers for getting their insatiable water fix, like refilling stations, re-usable bottles, or proof of corporate marketing campaigns that emphasize the importance of recycling (nah…companies probably think it’s cheaper just to pay the fine and move on…profit margins are huge, and don’t let them tell you otherwise).
  • The choice to purchase bottled water will be taken away from you by factors much bigger than you could ever imagine, involving global forces that may likely become more desperate, more militant by the year.

It may not only be oil that countries go to war over in the near future, but water, as well. If that starts to happen, it seems to me that our love affair with bottled water may come at a price that’s much too high to pay.

Thanks for stopping by!

G2