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The BBC's Paul Welsh
"For some, designer water is losing its sparkle"
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Friday, 17 March, 2000, 11:24 GMT
Water Wars Part III: Bottled water
Bottled water: A growth industry
Bottled water: A growth industry
The BBC's Paul Welsh explores the proliferation in the bottled water market - while access to clean water supplies for half of the world's population dwindles. This report from Paris.

It is a place for the pretty people. In a bistro below a boutique the trendy come to taste the waters of the world.

There are more than 70 varieties on sale now.

Bottled water is so much environmental madness

Matt Philips, Friends of the Earth
Water has been shipped in from a volcano and from Australia, in bottles styled by top designers including Philip Stark.

Victoire de Taillac of the Colette Water Bar says that her customers select their water based on the bottle which carries it.

"Most of the people ask for a very nice bottle or from a bottle from a precise country," she said.

It is fitting that the water bar is in the heart of France - because the French are at the heart of the water industry.

Perrier: International market leader
Perrier: International market leader
For years, Perrier was synonymous with bottled water and even with a massive growth in the industry and the French are still the world leaders.

They have a third of the market share in North America worth more than $1bn year and they are buying up sources around the world.

The French company, Perrier - Vittel, bought the Buxton mineral water bottling plant in Britain's Peak District national park 14 years ago when it produced half a million bottles a year.

Now production is up more than a hundred fold to 55 million.

Today they bottle, ship and sell a quarter of the flow from the Buxton source - and demand is growing.

Nikita Droin:
Nikita Droin: "People are getting more health conscious"
Sales of bottled water increased by more than 20% in Britain last year.

On average, Britons drink 14 litres each every year - though the European average is nearly six times that.

Nikita Droin of Perrier-Vittel attributes the growth in bottled water to people's busy lifestyles.

"There are various reasons for it," he explains. "One is certainly people are getting more health conscious and they take more care of themselves . And the other is the convenience aspect and the way of life. You're travelling more. You need to have access to refreshing, good water in any different situations."

Environmental concerns

However, not everyone is happy about bottled water.

Matt Phillips of Friends of the Earth thinks that bottled water is absurd.

Is designer water losing its sparkle?
Is designer water losing its sparkle?
"Bottled water is so much environmental madness," he said.

"It's absolutely absurd to be putting this very heavy bulky and yet supercheap product in bottles which weigh almost as much as the product and carting these around the world."

"It uses enormous amounts of energy and that in turn fuels climate change and yet it's climate change which is the biggest threat facing the world's water resources in the future. This is just craziness."

Tastes do change - 20 years ago almost 75% of bottles sold in Britain were sparkling. Now most sales are of still water.

While the more developed countries can pick and choose their water, half of the world's population will have water unfit to drink.

For some, designer water is losing its sparkle.
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