Water is the new wine for rich people.
It doesn’t matter if they all taste the same. What matters is the status symbol associated with drinking a particular brand of water and its branding.
Initially introduced only to “hand-selected athletes and actors,” Bling H2O is now available to the rest of us mere mortals. It has made appearances at the MTV Music Video and Emmy awards, but did anyone tell the celebs the water comes from Dandridge, Tennessee? Never mind, the point in this case is not what’s in the bottle as it is what’s on it: Swarovski crystals spelling out “bling.” The frosted glass bottle is labeled “Limited Edition Spring Water” and is sealed with a cork. You can buy Bling H2O in bottles without crystals, but why would you?
$441 per case of 12 bottles (750ml)
Per 750ml bottle: USD$36.75 (~S$50)
You might think twice before throwing out an empty Veen bottle. The engraved Wave 66 bottle with extra-flint glass designed by Antti Eklund won two global Pentawards and a design award from The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design. So taken was Eklund with the project that he created a series of Veen bottle drawings with nods to Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Warhol, Haring, Lichtenstein, and others. As for the water, it is lifted from the Konisaajo spring in the Finnish Lapland and comes in Velvet (still) and four carbonated styles: Effervescent, Light, Classic and Bold. Launched in August 2007, Veen is sold in seven European countries; negotiations are underway for U.S. distribution.
$228 per case of 12 bottles (600ml)
Per 750mls: USD$23.75 (~S$32)
The 10 Thousand BC name relates to the age of the water, though the BC could be misleading if you didn’t know it came from British Columbia, Canada. But who’s going to quibble over a couple thousand years? The point is that this water comes from melted glacial ice 200 miles north of Vancouver and 36 miles east into the Toba Inlet. It has been served at the Canadian Prime Minister’s dinners and in the VIP suites at the Las Vegas Hilton. The slender, frosted glass bottle bespeaks elegance, and the water inside has a total dissolved solids rating of a mere 4 milligrams per liter.
$155 per case of 12 bottles (750ml)
Per 750ml bottle: USD$12.92 (~S$18); up to USD$45.83 (~S$62) per 750ml bejeweled bottle
Here’s where the per-case price dips to below $100 per case, but that’s not to say quality declines too. Take glacier water. More than a handful of bottled waters are made from glaciers. But Berg, as the name implies, actually comes from icebergs off the coast of Newfoundland, Canada, dating back 15,000 years. The instability of these massive blocks of ice and long winters make production difficult. The icy green PET bottle—which represents the ice cap—could make you believe the water is freezing cold even if you let it sit in the car on a sunny day in July. But it’s probably best refrigerated.
$99 per case of 24 bottles (500ml)
Per 750mls: USD$6.19 (~S$8)
Aquadeco’s founder started his business by finding a Slovenian company that’s been producing glass for more than 600 years. Then he traveled with an engineer and hydrologist for 18 months through Europe, Armenia and Nepal before finding an 18,000-year-old aquifer in Ontario, Canada. The Art-Deco-styled bottle won the People’s Choice for Package Design. If you, too, like the bottle, you might want to buy the Aquadeco lighted display stand.
$70 per case of six bottles (750ml)
Per 750ml bottle: USD$11.66 (~S$16)
If you were willing to go to the ends of Earth for your water, you’d end up at Lauquen in Patagonia, Argentina, the southernmost natural resource for premium water. The company, which labels its bottles “Reserve,” claims the water—originating from a mountain-fed, confined aquifer 1,750 feet underground and emerging in a 20-acre wilderness area—does not come into contact with air until it reaches the bottle.
$70 per case of 12 bottles (750ml)
Per 750ml bottle: USD$5.83 (~S$8)
You know those little packets that come in the box with your new shoes? They tell you not to eat the stuff inside. It turns out this stuff—in the right form—is actually good for you. Drink a sake-styled, opaque glazed bottle of Finé and you’ll swallow the therapeutic RDA range of silica. The water comes from 2,100 feet below the Fuji volcanic belt in Shuzenji, Japan—an area revered by monks, artists, and intellectuals as a place for meditation and creativity.
$59 per case of 12 bottles (720ml)
Per 750mls: USD$5.12 (~S$7)
As the name suggests—to Danes, that is—Iskilde (“cold spring”) comes from an artesian spring with a temperature of around eight degrees. Because the water has traveled through some 150 feet of alternating layers of quartz sand and dense moraine clay in the Danish lake highlands, it has gathered a balance of minerals that lend it a touch of sweetness. The sparkling version of Iskilde is oxygenated rather than carbonated.
$43 per case of 16 bottles (500ml)
Per 750mls: USD$4.03 (~$5) ; up to USD$40 per special edition bottle (~S$54)
Mere minutes from where the World Meteorological Organization records the world’s purest air, one bottled water company collects raindrops before they hit the ground on the northwest coast of Tasmania. For those who like their rain with bubbles, Tasmanian Rain makes both still and sparkling versions. To make you feel even better about drinking this water, the company has partnered with Elementree, a company that plants trees based on water shipments and the company’s carbon emissions.
$45 per case of 12 bottles (750ml)
Per 750ml bottle: USD$3.75 (~S$5)
You could buy her roses—or give her a bottle of Equa and tell her the water comes from an aquifer composed entirely of rose quartz, Zuni Fetish and spent decades protected in the glassy confines before rising to Earth’s surface in Brazil. In fact, Equa has the fewest naturally occurring total dissolved solids of any bottled spring water (a miniscule three milligrams per liter). What’s better, Equa’s 3,100 acres have been designated a protection zone to preserve the Amazon rainforest, and Equa has dedicated the property as a Natural Wildlife Rehabilitation Sanctuary.
$30 per case of 12 bottle (1 liter)
Per 750mls: USD$1.88 (~S$3) ; up to USD$17.50 (~S$24) per special edition bottle, 750ml
Crazy isn’t it?
Please do not go buy these exotic water hor. Don’t support this frivolous, environment-unfriendly industry. By importing water from around the world to bottling factories, and then exporting them again to around the world, a lot of natural resources are wasted in the process as opposed to drinking from local water sources.
Water is water is water. The NEWater manufactured in Singapore, is just as good as the top ten list above.
Well, I doubt that Fiji has a booming plastics industry so they probably get the bottles in the form of “Blanks” from China, which are then expanded to their final size and shaped by a process called “stretch blow molding.” The total mass of the empty 1 liter bottle is probably around 0.025kg (25g) and it is made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) Plastics of this type use around 6.45kg of oil per kg, 294.2kg of water per kg, and result in 3.723kg of greenhouse gas emissions per kg. So, with a quick check (200kg/kg x 0.025kg = 5kg of water) we find that Butterfly is indeed correct. Based on my calculations a bottle that holds 1 liter requires 5 liters of water in its manufacturing process (this includes power plant cooling water).
Let’s take a look at the transportation aspect to see what the total ecological impact of an imported bottle of water might be. A container vessel uses 9g of fuel per tkm (that’s metric tons carried x distance traveled), 80g of water per tkm, and releases 17g of GHGs per tkm. The distance from China to Fiji is 8,000km, which gives us exactly 0.25tkm ( (0.025kg / 1t/1000kg) x 8,000km = 1.0tkm). So, 2.3g of fossil fuels, 20g of water, and 4.3g of GHGs per bottle delivered to Fiji from China.
Now let’s look at the trip to the US. The distance from Fiji to San Francisco is 8,700km. But this time the bottles will be full, so they will have a mass of 1.025kg each. This gives us a much larger value of 9.8tkm ( (1.025kg / 1t/1000kg) x 8,700km = 8.9tkm) which I will round up to 9tkm. So, 81g of fossil fuels, 720g of water, and 153g of GHGs per bottle delivered to the US from Fiji.
Since the fossil fuels end up being accounted for in the GHG emissions I’ll ignore those values for now. The total amount of water used to produce and deliver one bottle of imported water is 6.74kg (5kg + 20g + 1kg + 720g)! And the amount of GHGs released amount to 250g (93g + 4.3g + 153g), or 0.25kg, or 0.00025 tons. If you wanted to offset your annual imported water habit (are you eco-chic Hollywood types listening?) with DriveNeutral it would cost you $0.68 (0.00025 tons/day x 365 days/year x $7.50/ton).
But how much does it cost to deliver the water from halfway around the world? Let’s assume that the cost of transportation is based on our fossil fuel use assumptions above and that the bottle producer and the shipping company charge double their material cost. I am not sure if these are valid assumptions, but they are just assumptions after all… So, 160g of fossil fuels to make the bottle, 2g to deliver it to Fiji, and 81g to deliver the full bottle to the US. From economics we learn that fixed costs (equipment, etc.) in high-volume production are negligible in the long run so it is pretty safe to assume that the cost of making and delivering the bottled water is linked to its variable cost. In this case the variable cost is the fossil fuel (since the water comes out of the ground for free), which amounts to 0.243 kg. A standard oil barrel holds 159 liters and one liter of oil weighs 850g/liter, so one barrel holds 135.15kg of oil. One barrel costs between $50 and $70 (let’s say $60, depending on OPEC’s mood and other factors), so 0.243kg would cost $0.11 (1 barrel/135.15kg x $60/barrel x 0.243kg). And applying our earlier mark-up assumption, the cost to produce and deliver a bottle of imported water is $0.22, leaving $1.28 per bottle profit for the manufacturer and the retail store
Pablo Päster, MBA
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