Producing Bottled Water Uses Less Water Than You Think

(3BL Media/JustMeans) - Producing bottled water doesn’t use as much water as one would think. A study recently released by the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) found that production of bottled water is less than for all other packaged beverages. On average, it only takes 1.39 liters of water to produce one liter of bottled water. Although total water use and total water production increased by about three percent, water use ratio stayed about the same during the period of the study. “This trend demonstrates that process efficiencies are being recognized while the industry experiences sustainable growth,” the report states. Other beverage sectors have larger water use ratios because of certain processes such as flavor mixing or carbonation.
The study, managed by the third party consultant Antea Group, included nine IBWA members and an industry peer, representing 14.5 million liters of bottled water production, or 43 percent of all 2011 bottled water consumption in the U.S. A total of 62 North American bottled water facilities contributed to the study. The study is the first of its kind for IBWA, who required participants to provide three years (2009 to 2011) of information, including total water use. 
The study also looked at water use ratio trends among three other bottled water facilities: small packs that package bottled water in containers from 8 ounces to 2.5 gallons, home and office delivery that package bottled water in reusable or refillable containers from 2.5 to five gallons, and mixed packaging facilities with both small pack and home and office delivery packaging. The water use ratios for each of the three type of facilities saw “modest increases” of three percent or less. Home and office delivery facilities have a bigger water use ratio because refillable containers are used which must go through a sanitization process.
The North American bottled water industry has reduced water efforts through process improvements that include: 
• Improving flow management to reduce product waste through changeovers
• Optimizing cleaning and sanitizing units through automated timers, flow control, etc.
• Reusing or reclaiming water for non-product contact or gray water applications
“Water use efficiency is critical for the bottled water industry and efficient water use in operations positively impacts the viability of water resources and business sustainability,” IBWA vice president of communications Chris Hogan said.
2012 study by another industry group shows similar results
A 2012 report by the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), the organization’s sixth annual report, found similar results. For the report, the organization evaluated over 1,600 beverage manufacturing facilities on six continents which represent 17 beverage companies, and looked at four different facility types: bottling, brewery, distillery and winery. The 2012 report revealed that water use ratios for the entire beverage industry improved overall from 2009 to 2011. The beverage industry avoided using about 35 billion liters of water in 2011, enough to fill London’s O2 Arena over 16 times. For the bottled water industry, BIER looked at 131 facilities producing spring water, natural water or mineral water, and found that 75 percent had an improved water use ratio from 2009 to 2011.