VIPIRG reviews

Inside the bottle: An exposé of the bottled water industry

By Tony Clarke. Ottawa: Polaris Institute, 2005.

Review by Terry Wolfwood – Member of VIPIRG coordinating collective
May 2005

Inside The Bottle: An Exposé of the Bottled Water Industry tells us that bottled water is relatively new to Canada – it was introduced by the big corporations, like Nestle, from Europe. Then the cola companies, seeing their sales of sugary soft drinks stagnate as a result of health concerns, got into this profit able market. They had the great advantage, Clarke says, of already owning the facilities and having almost free access to municipal water (just like us, they can take it from the tap!) In Canada, 20% of drinking water is now bottled; its consumption exceeds coffee, tea, milk and apple juice. It’s more than fad now. Massive marketing with sophisticated and deceptive appeals to health and fashion consciousness keeps pushing up sales. Aging baby boomers and schools are a major focus of this advertising. Clarke says, “It is also one of the most unregulated industries that deal with people’s basic health needs.”

Clarke details a complete breakdown of the privileges, marketing strategies, prices and profit potential of bottled water. The book is worth the reasonable price of just for his clear and illuminating charts and tables alone.

This book is also a great resource for data on corporate water operations in North America and, most important, for stopping the corporate capture of a public resource. If we ignore the right of all people to safe and adequate water, properly managed as part of the public commons, we will soon face privatization of this public domain which surely will lead to increased pollution, limited access and higher prices. Water is a public and political issue for us all. It is the ultimate commons.

The excellent, well referenced background on community resistance and specific actions in Inside The Bottle send a compelling call to action to us all. So read the book and start organizing!