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Coming Clean on ‘AquaFib’

The No. 1 bottled water in the country, Pepsico’s Aquafina, is re-purified municipal drinking water. Yep: Pepsi bottlers around the country tap into the local tap water supply, put the water through an intensive purification process Pepsi calls “Hydro-7,” then bottle the water and sell it to us. But you’d never realize that, even if you studied every word on Aquafina label, because there’s no hint of the water’s source (although the Aquafina logo does include images of lovely mountains).

The No. 1 bottled water in the country, Pepsico’s Aquafina, is re-purified municipal drinking water. Yep: Pepsi bottlers around the country tap into the local tap water supply, put the water through an intensive purification process Pepsi calls “Hydro-7,” then bottle the water and sell it to us.

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But you’d never realize that, even if you studied every word on Aquafina label, because there’s no hint of the water’s source (although the Aquafina logo does include images of lovely mountains).

Yesterday, Pepsico and an activist group announced that Aquafina labels will now carry the three words, “Public Water Source.” Enigmatic language at best, but a step closer to transparency.

The activist group, Corporate Accountability International, takes full credit for persuading Pepsi to add the words to its label under a mock label redrawn as “AquaFib.” That seems a little excessive, given the range of growing consciousness about the impact of bottled water — but CAI has been running a campaign called “Think Outside the Bottle” for several years.

Pepsico did not issue a formal announcement, but a spokesperson said, “If this helps clarify the fact that the water originates from public sources, then it’s a reasonable thing to do.”

Dasani, which is Coca-Cola’s “brand” of water and the #2 water in the U.S. market, is also purified tap water. A Coke spokesperson, with perhaps an excess of modesty, said: “We don’t believe that consumers are confused about the source of Dasani water. The label clearly states that it is purified water.”

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But it doesn’t give a clue as to what kind of purified water. When I call the number on the Dasani bottle — (800) 788-5047 — and ask if Dasani is really just purified tap water, the gracious woman says, “Yes, it says right on the bottle, ‘purified water.'” And when I say, Yes, but purified tap water? The woman reads this line from the FAQ on the website, “To create Dasani, Coca-Cola bottlers start with the local water supply.”

If you want the full story on how bottled water — spring water and tap water — conquered America, you can find it in this month’s Fast Company magazine.

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About the author

Charles Fishman, an award-winning Fast Company contributor, is the author of One Giant Leap: The Impossible Mission that Flew Us to the Moon. His exclusive 50-part series, 50 Days to the Moon, will appear here between June 1 and July 20.

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