A shocking discovery was made in late August: Some bottled water is municipal tap water. Without a hint of shame, PepsiCo recently admitted that its Aquafina bottled water “originated from public sources,” despite the snow-capped peaks on the label, which implies the water came from cold mountain streams. Now we are only left to assume that the mountains represent a place where PepsiCo executives can afford to vacation, such as the Alps.
News about a company deceiving the public, and consumers willing to be snookered, isn’t the story dripping from this “Bottled Watergate.” Similar to the original Watergate tale, which illuminated a pattern of lawlessness emanating from the White House, the bottled water story only reflects the genuine crisis of a crumbling public water infrastructure.
Considering that the Aquafina public relations debacle arose in part from our newly sprouting environmental movement, the timing may be right to raise Americans’ consciousness about water issues. Promoting locally produced water is one way to create awareness of water’s value, and some communities are leading the way.
For example, to help create an image for the city’s water, New York recently began an advertising campaign, “Get Your Fill,” and uses claims such as “clean,” “zero sugar” and “stain free” in the ads. Reportedly, some restaurants also have banned bottled water, and instead are offering only the tap alternative.
While other cities, such as San Francisco; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Salt Lake City, are banning the sale of bottled water in city buildings, for example, New York has discovered the secret ingredient in commercially bottled water: image, which has been created through heapings of marketing pixie dust spread liberally and often.
Communities with great tasting water could bottle it, and use the profits to fix their water systems. Beaver, Utah — a recent winner of the National Rural Water Association’s Annual Great American Water Taste Test — is trying to turn its bragging rights into cold cash by advertising its victory on billboards on a local interstate to attract a water bottler.
However, if we wanted to raise money to repair the nation’s water infrastructure and, at the same time, lower the cost of prescription medicine, the answer is floating in our water systems now. Combining the advancements of water purification with the marketing techniques of the bottled water industry, cities and counties could harvest the pharmaceuticals in our water supplies and bottle them.
Water with Vigara and Propecia could be created for men, and, for the ladies, a concoction that could include medications prescribed for anything from hot flashes to weight loss. A catchy name and tag line is needed, but maybe that should be outsourced to an expert. Be careful, though. Marketing pros may be flush with ideas, but as PepsiCo discovered, some of them stink.