Bottled Water Bash: Networks Continue Assault

     Bottled water has been attacked recently for environmental damage, but now Aquafina’s bottler, PepsiCo is under fire for not previously disclosing the source of its water.


     “Don’t let that scenic [Aquafina] logo fool you, this water is not bottled from a mountain stream,” said Rob Marciano on CNN’s “American Morning.” Marciano’s report on July 30 informed viewers than PepsiCo has disclosed the source of its water after pressure from Corporate Accountability International.


     CBS’s Richard Schlessinger reported on July 27 that it’s “just tap water.”


     ABC “World News with Charles Gibson,” NBC “Nightly News,” CBS “Evening News” on July 27 as well as the July 30 CNN “American Morning” all made it sound like PepsiCo, the bottler of the country’s best-selling brand of bottled water Aquafina, had been dishonest.


·        “Aquafina. It sounds so nice, so refined, so special. You might think this biggest selling brand of bottled water must come from some place special. Well, today we found out it doesn’t,” said CBS “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric.


·        “Now PepsiCo, which sells it [Aquafina], has agreed to come clean about what P.W.S. means – public water source,” said ABC correspondent Ned Potter on “World News.”


·        “The blue labels on bottles of Aquafina water conjure up images of crystal clear mountain springs. But the words ‘purified drinking water’ don’t tell you where the product comes from,” said NBC correspondent George Lewis on “Nightly News.”


     On July 27, PepsiCo made the decision to change the labeling on its water from “P.W.S” to “Public Water Source” for clarification reasons. The water still undergoes various purification steps.


     Joseph K. Doss, the president of the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), told the Business & Media Institute that, “The FDA does not require you to put that [source information] on the label.”


     The networks downplayed those steps that make bottled water more than “just tap water.” They also ignored the convenience and portability of the product.


     The broadcasts also did not make it clear that Corporate Accountability International (CAI), the group that claimed victory for forcing the label changes, has a strident anti-business agenda.


     “We are being made to believe right now that for some reason bottled water may be healthier, cleaner, safer than tap water and in reality, that’s not true,” said Gigi Kellett of the CAI advocacy group on the July 27 “World News.” She was also quoted by “Nightly News.”


     One look at the CAI Web site and its strident anti-corporate goals are clear. The group, which supports “international social justice,” fights against many companies including Phillip Morris, Wal-Mart, and Halliburton. CAI also counts Greenpeace, The International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Wake-Up Wal-Mart and other groups among its allies.


     CAI also contends the bottled water industry is attempting to control water sources as “simply another opportunity to profit.”


     “[C]orporations are increasingly trying to take control of public water resources and systems and we’re seeing that these bottled water corporations are actually changing the way that people think about water,” said Kellett on WBUR Boston’s July 3 “On Point with Tom Ashbrook.”


     Doss refuted this notion. “We are such a small user of groundwater in this country,” he told BMI citing a recent study that found only 0.02 percent of groundwater is used by the bottled water industry.


     Stephen Kay, vice president of IBWA, told the Business & Media Institute on July 10 that bottled water is meant to be a beverage option – and bottlers are not suggesting it is a superior product to tap water.


     “It’s not a bottle versus tap water issue to us,” said Kay. “It is a legitimate food product. It has a place in our free market economy.”


     Even one critic of bottled water who has led the campaign scrutinizing the industry’s practices at least tried to put things in perspective. “[W]e certainly need to keep bottled water in perspective compared to coal burning power plants or—or driving SUVs,” said Charles Fishman, editor-at-large, Fast Company magazine during “On Point with Tom Ashbrook.”

     Previous news broadcasts have blamed bottled water  for contributing to global warming and cluttering landfills despite its 100 percent recyclable packaging.