Research by the University of Geneva has found that tap water in developed countries is just as safe and healthy as bottled water, and much less harmful to the environment.
The study, commissioned by the Swiss-based World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said that in many cases the only difference is that bottled water comes in a fancy container, rather than out of a tap.
"Bottled water may be no safer, or healthier, than tap water in many countries, while selling for up to 1,000 times the price," the WWF said.
It added that "there are more standards regulating tap water in Europe and the United States than those applied to the bottled water industry".
The WWF also warned about the environmental damage caused by the bottled water industry, which is worth $22 billion a year. It estimates that some 1.5 million tonnes of plastic is used every year by the industry, with the toxic chemical posing a threat to the environment at both the manufacturing and disposal stages.
It added that because around a quarter of the 90 billion litres of bottled water drunk each year is consumed outside its country of origin, the transport involved contributed significantly to greenhouse gas emissions.
"Bottled water is not a long term sustainable solution to securing access to the healthy water," said Richard Holland, director of WWF's Living Waters Campaign.
The WWF said it was ironic that more people were turning to bottled water over concerns about pollution in rivers, when the industry itself was making the problem worse.
The International Bottled Water Association dismissed the WWF's criticism as misguided. Spokesman, Stephen Kay, said that although the group's goals were "laudable... bottled water sales are a symptom of the problem not the cause itself".
He added that bottled water was always of a consistent quality while tap water was safer in some places than others.
swissinfo with agencies
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