From: Andrea Thompson, LiveScience
Published April 1, 2009 01:44 PM

The Energy Footprint of Bottled Water

Our bottled water habit has a huge environmental impact, including the amount of energy it takes to make the plastic bottles, fill them and ship them to thirsty consumers worldwide.

A new study breaks down just how much energy is used at each step of the process.

An estimated total of the equivalent of 32 million to 54 million barrels of oil was required to generate the energy to produce the amount of bottled water consumed in the United States in 2007, according to the study, detailed in the January-March issue of the journal Environmental Research Letters. Of course, this is but a third of a percent of the energy that the United States consumes as a whole in a year.

In 2007, the last year for which global statistics were available, more than 200 billion liters of bottled water were sold around the world, mostly in North America and Europe. The total amount sold in the United States alone that year (33 billion liters) averages out to about 110 liters (almost 30 gallons) of water per person, according to the Beverage Marketing Corporation.

Since 2001, bottled water sales have increased by 70 percent in the United States, far surpassing those of milk and beer. Only sodas have larger sales.


The energy required to produce bottled water is particularly of interest now, at a time when many nations are looking for ways to reduce their energy use and associated climate impacts.

Peter Gleick, president of the Pacific Institute, a nonpartisan research institute, and his colleague Heather Cooley recently realized that no one had done a comprehensive survey of the energy use involved in the complete production cycle of bottled water, so they took on the task.

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