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How Not to Convince People to Buy Bottled Water [Updated]

The Bottled Water Association's YouTube vid, is, like, totally lame.

bottled water

If you've seen Annie Leonard's Story of Bottled Water or read one of our posts on the subject, you know that there is much to dislike in the bottled water industry. But the nonsensical and vaguely unsettling videos being pumped out by Bottled Water Matters, the consumer arm of the International Bottled Water Association, really don't help the industry's case.

Among the more disturbing statistics about bottled water: One third of bottled water comes from the tap, and enough oil and energy to fuel a million cars is used to make bottled water in the U.S. every year. These facts are conveniently smoothed over in the YouTube shorts produced by BWM.

The video below purports to tell the "True Story of Bottled Water" with help from a helium-voiced animated bottle of water that defends the industry with fun tidbits like "There are some people who simply don't like the smell or taste of chlorine that you get with tap water," and "With the high rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease in the U.S., people are choosing bottled water as an alternative to other drinks." A note to our animated host—EPA guidelines require that tap water contain a minimal chlorine concentration of 0.2 ppm. If you're really concerned, letting the water sit for a day in an uncovered container removes all traces of chlorine. And tap water can help prevent obesity just as well as bottled water.

The most recent video from Bottled Water Matters, dubbed "The Inner Workings of a Bottled Water Plant," is just as cringeworthy. The poorly produced clip features a teenage correspondent on a tour of the Grand Springs bottling facility in Alton, Virginia. At one point, the correspondent exclaims, "I just feel like I'm in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory!" We beg to differ.

These videos aren't just goofy; they're also spreading misinformation. Dr. Peter Gleick, President of the Pacific Institute and author of Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, explains to FastCompany.com, "Facts are often wrong or incompletely presented; partial truths mask the full story; industry representatives make claims that are unsubstantiated; the videos explicitly malign tap water – something the industry claims it doesn't do (such as at minute 1:23 in "The Real Story of Bottled Water," and especially 1:33 in that same video); they pretend to be "reporting" (ala the "BWM Report" label on the microphone held up to spokesmen for comments in the "Good Stewards of the Environment" segment), with softball questions given to company executives (like "What positive steps is your company doing for the environment?"); the "reporter" agrees with the executives ("So you’re really good on recycling…."); and so on."

See if you can stomach it below. A glass of water might help it go down.

Ariel Schwartz can be reached on Twitter or by email.

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