Bottled Water Labels Mislead Consumers about Sources and Purity

by Project Censored
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Nine of the top US bottled water brands do not inform consumers where their water comes from, how it is “purified,” and if tests show contaminants.  There are no legal requirements mandating such labeling.  In order to be called “spring water,” a product has to be either “collected at the point where water flows naturally to the earth’s surface” or “from a borehole that taps into the underground source.”

Almost half of all bottled water sold in the US is actually treated tap water.

Although slightly more than half comes from springs, a large portion of that water is now drawn from multiple sources, usually with no labeling to identify the exact sources and their quality or type.

A current consumer-initiated lawsuit contends that Nestlé’s Poland Spring brand has not actually come from Poland Spring for over 40 years.  Instead, the suit charges that the company bottles ground water and water drawn from a well near a former garbage dump in Maine.

A study of ten leading US bottled water brands found they contained 38 impurities, with an average of eight pollutants in each, including bacteria, solvents, radioactive strontium, fertilizer residue, pharmaceuticals, and plastics industry byproducts.


Kate Sheppard, “Does Poland Spring Water Actually Come From Poland Spring?” Mother Jones, March 14, 2013.

Nneka Leiba, Sean Gray, and Jane Houlihan.  “Bottled Water Scorecard,” Environmental Working Group, January 25, 2011.

Student Researchers: Christina Constable, SUNY Buffalo

Faculty Evaluator: Dr. Michael I. Niman, SUNY Buffalo