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Bottled Water Alert

November 23, 2009

For Dasani, Every Day is Halloween

Group demands Coke stop disguising the source of its water

John Stewart, 857-413-6261
Nick Guroff, 617-695-2525

For Immediate Release: October 28, 2009

Boston, MA – Today the Coca-Cola corporation heard from hundreds of people nationwide that it’s time the bottling giant labeled the source of its Dasani bottled water. Corporate Accountability International supporters across the country took to the streets dressed in “tap water” t-shirts and suit coats to generate phone calls and letters to Coke executives.

“Coke’s been dressing up tap water as Dasani for more than a decade,” said Kristin Urquiza, an organizer with Corporate Accountability International. “We figured it was about time Dasani’s PR team received its due on the mother of all dress-up days.”

Corporate Accountability International has compelled other leading bottlers Nestlé and Pepsi to label the source of their bottled water brands in recent years, albeit without donning costumes. But Coke has dragged its feet, even as Congress has echoed the organization’s demand that bottlers be transparent about the source of their water.

Instead of responding to popular demand that the corporation cease its misleading marketing, Coke has pumped more money into marketing the fledgling brand. This October, Coke reported a 19 percent nosedive in Dasani sales from the same period last year.

And the forecast doesn’t appear to be improving no matter how much money Coke throws at it. A recent Harris poll found that close to one in three Americans had switched from bottled to tap water in the last year.

“People are tired of being tricked into buying something they can get freely from the tap,” said Urquiza. “People are also coming to realize why such a simple move is such serious stuff for Coke – if it can’t differentiate its water from the tap, it won’t have a market for its product.”

Though bottled water is less regulated than the tap, historically its marketing has eroded public confidence in tap water – though that confidence is being restored through public education campaigns like Think Outside the Bottle.

The political fallout when public opinion sags is that funding for public water systems declines. Cities are currently facing a $22 billion annual shortfall in the funding they need to adequately fund public water systems. In a time of $700 billion corporate bailouts with uncertain economic returns, closing this funding gap would actually inject $2.62 into the economy for every dollar invested.

“This is an important first step for Coke in acknowledging the broader context it is doing business in,” said Urquiza. “Water is too essential to be disguised this Halloween. Honesty in advertising isn’t just the right thing to do, it ensures that people can make informed choices about our most critical resource.”

The Bottled Water Industry – Threatening the Human Right to Water

The Corporate Cover Up

Nowhere is the corporate water-grab more insidious than the exploding corporate control of our drinking water. Throughout the world, some of the most powerful corporations are privatizing our public water systems and resources, reducing our right to water into simply another opportunity to profit.

Bottled water corporations have sold people a bill of goods — positioning bottled water as healthy, when in reality it threatens our health and our ecosystems, costs thousands of times what tap water costs, and undermines local democratic control over a common resource.  Water bottling is one of the least regulated industries in the US — much less regulated than our public tap water. Scientific studies even show that bottled water is no safer than tap water, and can sometimes be less safe, containing elevated levels of arsenic, bacteria and other contaminants.

Bottled water also leaves a carbon footprint:

Making bottles to meet Americans’ demand for bottled water required more than 17 million barrels of oil last year – enough fuel more than 1 million U.S. cars for a year – and generated more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide (Source: Pacific Institute).

To put it another way, the entire energy costs of the lifecycle of a bottle of water is equivalent, on average, to filling up a quarter of each bottle with oil (Source: Pacific Institute).

Bottled water corporations directly impact local communities.

Bottling plants operated by these water giants are springing up across the US and around the world.  Bottlers extract water in huge amounts from local springs and aquifers, potentially drying up wells and springs or depleting wetlands and draining rivers, with serious impacts on the ecosystems. If these corporations are not draining local water supplies, the water bottlers take it directly from our public tap water systems — more than one-quarter of bottled water sold comes from municipal supplies. These corporations use political and economic clout to secure sweetheart deals, block legislative efforts to secure local control and pursue costly and time-consuming litigation against individuals and governments.

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