Water, water on the supermarket shelves – why isn’t it free to drink?

Did you ever wonder who owns the contents of these bottles?

Mrs Grumble raised a damned good question at breakfast this morning.

If nobody owns water – then why do people pay for bottled water at the supermarket, service stations…wherever?

Good question.

Here are some more questions:

If The Boss is found to be wrong on the matter and it transpires that Maori own the water – well, how will the price of bottled water be affected? And tap water? And Tui beer, made from wonderful river water up the road a few kilometres from Eketahuna?

The fuss raised by John Key’s remarks about who owns water were away out of order, of course.

Long ago he was on record as saying Maori are “very important stakeholders” in discussions on water allocation – but he stopped short of saying they have ownership rights to water.

The fuss was triggered this week when he went a tad further and said (as reported here:)

“We don’t believe anybody owns water. What we do accept is that people own water rights. We don’t think the sale of 49 per cent of Mighty River Power in any way impinges on those water rights,” he said.

So if nobody owns the water, it follows that nobody owns the water put in a bottle.

That’s what got Mrs Grumble going.

She found some marketing stuff here where she learned New Zealanders are consuming around 55 million litres of bottled water.

Per year, she imagines (and it looks like the figures might be somewhat out of date).

This is on top of the 530 + litres each one of us is drinking from the tap each year.

Or rather, each of us on average, presumably, because Alf has steered clear of water ever since hearing why W.C.Fields avoided it: he did not drink it because fish fuck in it.

As for the rest of the populace, it seems our consumption of bottled water is low compared with other countries at 14 litres.

The aforementioned marketing item which Mrs Grumble dug up gives a damned good reason:

Our low per capita of bottled water, at 14 litres, is attributed to our unwillingness to pay for water.

Even so, this item (which may have been written a few years ago) went on to point out –

The fact of the matter is bottled water does account for 10% of our beverage purchases from supermarkets and volumes are growing in excess of 10% per annum while value is growing around 20% per annum in the recent quarter. Last year we spent $44 million on 30 million litres of bottled water in supermarkets and $12 million on nearly 4 million litres in service stations. We purchased another 23 million litres from other un-audited sources eg restaurants, clubs, pubs, workplaces etc bringing our estimated spend somewhere into the vicinity of $80 to $90 million based on conservative estimates. Bottled water growth rates are achieving around 10% which is strongly outpacing the total beverage category at less than 6%.

This means some bastard (or bastards) are making big bucks from the water that nobody owns.

Maybe those who consume this product should kick up a fuss.

If nobody owns the water, why should consumers be paying for it?

One possibility is that they insist on paying (under duress) only for the plastic containers and whatever distribution and other legitimate marketing and retailing costs can be proven plus a small margin.

Alternatively, we should be free to take along our own containers, empty the contents of the bottled water into our containers, and head for home without paying a penny.

Mind you, this ownership argument isn’t new and – as is shown by the item here at Smart Planet – it isn’t confined to this country.

Does the public own it? Does the federal government? How about private entities, such as farmers and manufacturers?

Who gets to foot the bill when something goes wrong — or when it’s all gone?

Those were the questions debated this morning at The Atlantic’s Green Intelligence Forum 2010, where water experts weighed in on the difficulties in framing a global water crisis.

But the same item somewhat shattered Alf’s thoughts about crusading for free bottled water.

According to the experts, water is certainly not free — but establishing ownership gets tricky once you try to price it to curb excessive usage.

That’s where we are at now, with the government thinking about how to manage water resources and charge for usage.

We know where The Boss stands on the matter.

What about those tossers among the Labour and Green Parties.

Let them declare who owns our water?

2 Responses to Water, water on the supermarket shelves – why isn’t it free to drink?

  1. robertguyton says:

    Re W.C.Fields’ observation on fornicating fish, well, they don’t do they! She ‘deposits’ and he sprays milt all over the shop. W.C. mustn’t have been fan of David Attenborough.
    I do feel for Mrs Grumble. It’s a perplexing question but Maori spokespeople and the National Party ministers just need to sit down and have a nice chat, perhaps over a cup of tea, about water. Mr Key has rather spoiled things by saying,
    “Don’t care, do what I want anyway!”
    as it could have been a grown-up conversation, done right, but then it’s difficult for him, being an arrogant Tory ‘n’ all.

  2. Andrew says:

    its not free because it is filtered, bottled, transported, and cooled. If you want free water, go down to your local stream and drink all you want.

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