Asia-Pacific is the largest bottled water market
Based on the analysis and data of 109 countries, the U.N. report estimated total global revenue in bottled water at U.S.$1.2 trillion.
The Asia-Pacific region constitutes about half of the global bottled water market in revenue, said the report, released just a few days ahead of the U.N. Water Conference in New York on March 22-24.
Southeast Asian countries -- Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Vietnam -- featured prominently in the top 25 lists of bottled water total sales in dollars and consumption in liters.
Meanwhile, just three countries - the United States, China, and Indonesia – constituted half of the world’s bottled water market, according to the report.
The U.S. bottled water market is estimated around U.S.$64 billion in sales, or almost a quarter of the total revenue globally, followed by China (U.S.$50 billion, or 18%) and Indonesia (U.S.$22 billion, or 8%).
In annual spending per capita and volume of bottled water sold per capita, Singapore emerged ahead of others, with each Singaporean spending U.S.$1,348 dollars to buy 1,129 liters of bottled water annually.
The report also noted that there was discrepancy on why people consumed bottled water, with the Global North citizens often perceiving it as a healthier and tastier – and thus a luxury - product, while for the Global South it is primarily a necessity.
“Marketing campaigns by the bottled water industry aiming to promote the concept of bottled water 'purity' and to discredit tap water for its poor quality, also played their role,” the report said.
However, according to some 60 case studies from more than 40 countries, there were numerous cases of inorganic, organic, and microbiological contamination found in both local and global brands.
“This review constitutes strong evidence against the misleading perception that bottled water is an unquestionably safe drinking water source,” lead author Zeineb Bouhlel said.
Even then, bottled water generally faces fewer water quality regulations and less scrutiny than public utilities, co-author Vladimir Smakhtin said.
Around the world, as many as 4 billion people experience water shortages for at least one month a year, according to the U.N.
At the same time, 25% of the population lives in countries facing an extremely high level of water stress, the World Resources Institute said Friday.