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Pepsi to Print 'Public Water Source' on Labels
By Bobby Ramakant
Asia Correspondent
Pepsi to Print 'Public Water Source' on Labels

After years of mounting pressure against corporate control of water and demand for accountability, Pepsi has agreed to provide consumers with more information about the source of the water used for their bottled water brand 'Aquafina.' In direct response to a national day of action earlier this month, Pepsi agreed to spell out "Public Water Source" on the Aquafina label.

As part of the 'Think Outside the Bottle' campaign, thousands of people have been urging Pepsi to make changes in the Aquafina label, which includes an image of snow-capped mountains and states "pure water, perfect taste." Though the image implies that the source of Aquafina is mountain spring water, it actually uses tap water as its source. In fact, up to 40% of bottled water uses tap water as its source.

"Pepsi's response to the Think Outside the Bottle campaign is an important first step," says Gigi Kellett, Think Outside the Bottle Campaign Director. "Concerns about the bottled water industry, and increasing corporate control of water, are growing across the country. It is significant that Pepsi is taking some action, especially since Aquafina is the leading bottled water brand in the US."

Pepsi's decision to change the Aquafina label comes in the midst of growing national attention to the bottled water industry. Last month San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom banned city spending on bottled water and the US Conference of Mayors adopted a resolution highlighting the importance of public water systems and the negative impact of bottled water. According to San Francisco city-government officials, the ban is part of an effort to combat global warming and save taxpayer money. The mayor cited the enormous environmental impact of making, transporting and disposing of the bottles as the reason behind the ban on bottled water. Other public agencies and the private sector in the United States, as well as in other countries where potable drinking water can be drawn from the tap, should learn from his example.

Global consumption of bottled water had increased by 57 percent during 1999-2004 according to the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute. In 1999, it was 98 billion litres which rose up to 154 billion litres by 2004. The US, other Western industrialised countries and populous developing countries like China, Mexico and Brazil were among the top consumers of bottled water.

Some of the most alarming increase in bottled-water consumption has taken place in developing countries, including Thailand where water companies have aggressively promoted bottled water as part of a modern, healthy lifestyle, indirectly implying that tap water supply is unhealthy. Most consumers seem oblivious to the fact that bottled water is up to 1,000 times more expensive than tap water.

Most people in the world won't have access to enough water within 20 years, according to the United Nations, and the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) projects 36 states in the U.S. will experience water shortages even sooner.

People in the U.S. spent $11 billion on bottled water last year, and Pepsi's Aquafina generated $1.3 billion in revenues in 2005.

In addition to revealing the sites and sources of water used for bottling, the Think Outside the Bottle campaign calls on Pepsi, Coke and Nestlé to publicly report breaches in water quality, comparable to reports by public water systems, and to stop threatening local control of water when siting and operating bottling plants.

As natural rights, water rights are also usufructuary rights, that is, water can be used but not owned. People have a right to life and the resources that sustain it, such as water.

The necessity of water to life is why, under customary laws, the right to water has been accepted as a natural, social fact.

That is why governments and corporations cannot alienate people of their water rights. Water rights come from nature and creation. They flow from the laws of nature, not from the rules of the market.



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Bobby Ramakant, who serves as The Seoul Times' Asia correspondent, is a member of NATT, Network for Accountability of Tobacco Transnationals, and edits Weekly MONiTOR series, reporting violations of tobacco control policies as a senior public health and development journalist. He writes for newspapers in 11 countries and can be reached at bobbyramakant@yahoo.com)

 

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