Tap water vs bottled water

With tap water thousands of times cheaper than bottled water, is it time to retire the plastic?

Multimillion dollar marketing

At least four popular brands of bottled water – Nature's Best, Pureau, Aqua Pura, and Refresh – are nothing more than treated tap water. And even when bottled water with an enviro-looking label does come from a natural source of some sort, there's no requirement that it be the actual source mentioned on the label.

Coca-Cola Amatil's Mount Franklin, for instance, comes from various springs across five different states. One is in Queensland, about 1600km from Victoria's Mount Franklin.

Bottled water is neither healthier nor more hydrating than tap water, and most people can't tell the difference in a taste test.

Nevertheless, the bottled water industry is expected to take in about $688 million in total sales this year.

Tap water itself, on the other hand, is getting cheaper these days – at least in Australia's largest city. Wherever you go, tap water remains much cheaper than bottled water.

Less than one cent a litre

As of July this year, Sydney Water's prices went from $0.00227 to $0.00197 per litre (meaning a litre costs less than one cent).

Compare that with a 750ml of Pump at $2.59 (or $3.45 per litre) or a 600ml of Mount Franklin at $2.17 ($3.62 per litre).

That makes Pump 1751 times more expensive than tap water. Mount Franklin is 1837 times more expensive.

These are big markups, but apparently the outdoorsy labels and compelling marketing words like "pristine", "natural", and "pure" are doing the trick.

Meanwhile, only a small proportion of recyclable plastic water bottles actually make it to the recycling bin.

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