Bottled water sales starting to run dry

Revolt grows as environmental fears prompt diners to ask for tap

A A A

A revolt against bottled water in restaurants is growing. Last year, figures showed that, after more than three decades of year-on-year growth, bottled water sales dropped by 9 per cent. Now a survey shows more people prefer tap water when they dine out.

Almost two thirds of the people, 63 per cent, said they always asked for tap water or would prefer to drink tap water in restaurants rather than buy a bottle of still or sparkling. Despite that, one in four people surveyed by the WaterAid charity felt pressured to order bottled water when dining out.

Women were more likely to choose tap water than men, while people in Greater London and Scotland were the most likely to choose bottled water. Diners in the South-east and East Anglia were the happiest with tap.

The research group TNS asked 2,018 people about their water-drinking habits while dining out. Some 38 per cent, equating to 14 million nationwide, said they always asked for tap water and 25 per cent, or 9.5 million, said they preferred tap water. Thirty-seven per cent of diners said they always asked for bottled water. Although there is no historical comparison for the number of bottled water refuseniks, the level of people who "always" ask for tap is believed to be on the rise after high-profile campaigns to cut the environmental cost of bottled water.

The popularity of bottled water soared during the 1990s and early 2000s. Sales increased 6 per cent annually to more than two billion litres. But last year that trend was reversed, with sales in the UK dropping by 9 per cent. Most bottled water has a lower carbon footprint than other soft drinks but tap water is less harmful still and 1,000 times cheaper, costing 0.1p a litre at home. The £2bn-a-year British bottled water industry is hoping to persuade people that its product is purer than tap water, which is chemically treated before being pumped into houses and businesses.

WaterAid called on restaurants to ask diners to donate a few pence towards its work when customers order free tap water, with the launch of its Tap into WaterAid initiative. So far, 36 restaurants have signed up to the scheme, launched to mark United Nations World Water Day yesterday.

Andrew Cook, WaterAid's deputy chief executive, said: "Water is essential for life, yet here we are in 2009 and more than one in eight of the world's population are without access to it. Over 1.8 million children die every year from water-related diseases. We're so lucky here in the UK; we just turn on a tap and our fresh water is there."

According to WaterAid, 884 million people in the developing world are without clean water. "The only choice they have is to walk for miles in search of dangerously dirty water, or go without," the charity said.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Services Assistant

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Client Services Assistant is ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Senior Sales Broker - OTE £100,000

£20000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportuni...

Recruitment Genius: Duty Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Duty Manager is required to join one of the ...

Recruitment Genius: Team Leader

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Team Leader is required to join one of the l...

Day In a Page

No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor