Water, water, every where, Nor any drop to drink.

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Here's the skinny on a both widely debated and widely ignored topic.

Talk about an energy drink. The first comprehensive and peer-reviewed energy analysis of a bottle of water confirms what many environmentalists have charged. From start to finish, bottled water consumes between 1100 and 2000 times more energy on average than does tap water.

ScienceNow, the news magazine of the AAAS reports on a new study by Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute, and a colleague, Heather Cooley. Not only does this report confirm the outrageous disregard for the fundamental wasteful practice of drinking bottled water in situations where tap water is clearly an equivalent alternative. For those that argue that they need to carry bottled water with them while they jog or otherwise are isolated from the tap, please fill up an empty bottle before you leave the house.

For those who want to dismiss these results because they disagree with the assumptions and methods used by Gleick and Cooley, the report continues with a comment from a disinterested academic well respected for his knowledge about life cycle analyses. Even with his qualifier, there is no question about basic issue here--bottled water just doesn't hack it environmentally:

"They've done a pretty good job of modeling the bottled-water side," says environmental engineer H. Scott Matthews of Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. But he also says they didn't do enough modeling of tap water to make an adequate comparison between the two. Gleick says that, although the energy for purifying and delivering tap water varies, even in the most expensive cases it is hundreds of times less than for bottled water.

Some of my recent posts have been targeted to bottled water offerings on the web.

Bottled water consumption has skyrocketed over the past several years. In 2007, some 200 billion liters of bottled water were sold worldwide, and Americans took the biggest gulp: 33 billion liters a year, an average of 110 liters per person. That amount has grown 70% since 2001, and bottled water has now surpassed milk and beer in sales

Those who make green claims would be well advised to read Gleick and Cooley's whole report and go back and rethink their marketing and business strategy. The data above show that there's no question that bottled water marketing has been very effective. But to intimate that your brand of bottled water is remotely green is the epitome of greenwashing. And to those who fall for the message: never, never tell a market researcher that you care about being green.

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