It’s not shocking to learn that Americans drink more bottled water than they did ten years ago, but how much more is astounding. Sales of bottled water have increased by 170 percent since 1997, surpassing sales of both beer and milk. In Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It, journalist Elizabeth Royte spins a compelling story of how beverage companies have successfully persuaded Americans to spend more than $10 billion annually on a product that’s available everywhere practically free of charge.
Royte (whose book Garbage Land followed the trail of American trash) is a great guide through bottled water’s brave new world. Each chapter chronicles a different issue facing the industry, from the mechanics of large-scale water pumping, to the problems of plastic bottles, to the use of “hydrostitutes” (industry-paid scientists). But it’s the section on what’s actually in the water we drink that makes this book an essential, if somewhat disturbing, read.
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