Bottled up

Taste, not health risk, the motivating factor for bottled water consumption

A new study published in Water International indicate that people's preference for bottled water is connected to their lifestyle, rather than fears of being exposed to contaminated tap water. Photo: Ed Yourdon/C.C 2.0
It's a baffling fact that despite being harmful for the environment, more expensive and similar in quality to tap water, people still continue to buy bottled water.

Water bottles in the dessert
To try to find the answer to this apparent contradiction, centre researcher Beatrice Crona joined researchers from Arizona State University. They chose the desert city of Phoenix as their study location, an arid urban environment where water quality and security is a frequently discussed issue.

The results of the study, which was recently published in Water International, indicate that people's preference for bottled water is connected to their lifestyle, rather than fears of being exposed to contaminated tap water.

Request publication

In fact, despite positive perceptions of water quality and trust in the government, the respondents still preferred bottled water.
 
"For example, we expected individuals with higher income and education to recognise the quality of tap water and therefore be less likely to purchase bottled water, but instead we found the opposite result", says co-author Beatrice Crona.

Lifestyle is key
Several other hypotheses were also tested, but most of them came back with rather surprising conclusions:
 
- Ethnic minorities did not consume more bottled water despite being more exposed to potential environmental hazards.

- Concerns for environmental issues did not translate into less consumption of bottled water.
 
"The result of the study indicate a need to explore lifestyle and life stage in greater detail, as well as a need to expand the sample population," Crona concludes.

References

Citation

York, A.M., Barnett, A., Wutich, A., Crona, B.I. (2011) Household bottled water consumption in Phoenix: a lifestyle choice. Water International 36(6):708-718.

Request publication

Beatrice Crona is an Assistant Professor at the centre with a PhD in Marine Ecotoxicology /Natural Resource Management.

Share

Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
SE-10691
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70
info@stockholmresilience.su.se

Organisation number: 202100-3062
VAT No: SE202100306201