Companies that sell bottled water, popularly known as pure, mineral or spring water, could be taking local consumers for a ride and actually selling them tap water that has just been bottled.
Sunday Standard investigations have also revealed that the process that is used to purify or treat the bottled water might actually be dangerous to human health.
The label on a locally produced water bottle, for example, read that a process called reverse osmosis is used to process the water before it is bottled.
“Reverse osmosis is used to produce this product, thus removing all impurities, and retaining only the essential minerals your body needs,” read the label.
For one to understand reverse osmosis, they have to understand osmosis first. According to a website, www.allaboutwater.com, osmosis refers to the process by which a plant, for example beetroot, absorbs moisture from the soil, purifying this moisture as it passes through its membrane. During this absorption process, a measurable pressure exists across the skin of the plant, called the osmotic pressure. When this process is reversed and pressure is applied to one side of the man-made membrane, reverse osmosis occurs.
Sunday Standard investigations have revealed that reverse osmosis might not be the ideal process through which bottled water can be treated for human consumption.
Investigations have revealed that bottled water that is purified using reverse osmosis with a carbon filter removes only 98-99% of impurities contained in the water, a fact which bottle manufacturers fail to mention in their advertising campaigns.
Reverse osmosis also produces acidic water, which can be dangerous to the body. Acidic water can provoke reactions such as the stripping of calcium and other essential minerals from bones and teeth in order to neutralize the body’s acidity.
Information passed to this paper suggests that the removal capabilities of reverse osmosis are not ideally suited to the challenges of the municipally treated water that the overwhelming majority of people receive, especially in Botswana.
According to Festus Malan, CEO of Malsotel Investment Company, also owner of a local bottled water brand ‘super cool’, it should be noted that the use of municipal water in bottled water processing is not limited to Botswana.
“It is interesting to note that although reverse osmosis removes almost all minerals from the water, its removal capabilities are not suited to the challenges of municipally treated water,” said Malan.
The alleged excellent quality of the water and the methods adopted during the purification process of manufactured bottled water may be just a marketing ploy to lure unsuspecting customers into buying the product.
A number of international companies worldwide that advertised their water as ‘pure, spring water’ were in the past investigated for misleading consumers about the true nature of their products.
A study that was released in 1999 by the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC), which tested more than 1000 samples of 103 brands of bottled water, reached the conclusion that, “an estimated 25% or more of bottled water is really just tap water in a bottle, sometimes further treated, sometimes not.”
In countries like India, where locals are advised against drinking tap water due to high levels of water pollutants, such occurrences can lead to fatalities. To that effect, the Indian government advises people to buy bottled water from highly established shops that will be held accountable if it is later found that their ‘pure water’ is actually tap water.
People are coerced into buying bottled water because of the heavy marketing campaigning done by bottled water manufacturers. Reports have often proven that manufacturers have a tendency to exaggerate the purity of the water.