The growing bottled drinking water business is undermining Sustainable Development Goals on ensuring access to water for all, according to a new United Nations report. The industry is "not strategically aligned with the goal of universally providing water," said the Canada-based UN Institute for Water, Environment and Health on Thursday.
An expansion of the bottled water supply, especially in poorly developed countries, could mean that general access to clean water is not sufficiently expanded, while bottled water producers make money. From 2010 to 2020 alone, the business volume grew by 73 percent - according to forecasts, this trend will continue.
Will water become a luxury good?
"This points to a global case of extreme social injustice, where billions of people worldwide lack access to reliable water services while others enjoy water luxuries," it said in a statement. While bottled water is considered healthier and tastier in industrialized countries and is therefore more of a luxury product, the sale of bottled drinking water in poorer countries is being driven by the lack of public water supplies. Lack of investment and corruption are often responsible for these problems.
Bottled water can cost 150 to 1,000 times more per liter than tap water, the report said. According to this, 350 billion liters of water were bottled worldwide in 2021, with sales amounting to 270 billion US dollars. 25 million tons of plastic waste were created - that corresponds to a chain of 40-ton trucks from New York to Bangkok. In terms of per capita consumption of bottled water, Germany is in 10th place worldwide with more than 150 liters per year (in 2021), behind the USA and ahead of Italy.
According to the United Nations, the findings of the study are based on analyzes from more than 100 countries. March 22 is World Water Day. The UN water conference in New York also starts on this day. The aim is to check to what extent internationally agreed goals, including the UN sustainability goal of access for all people to clean water, can be achieved. Two billion people worldwide - one in four people - do not have clean water.