Why do consumers purchase bottled water?

Fast Company published today an excerpt of the new book Unbottled by Daniel Jaffee in which he highlights the five factors why consumers purchase bottled water, or how have they been persuaded to do so – fashion, flavor, fitness, frequent drinking, and fear – and zeroes in on the last one:

The bottled water industry has both subtly and overtly spread doubt about the safety of public tap water, positioning its product as the safer alternative.

Unbottled: The Fight against Plastic Water and for Water Justice
by Daniel Jaffee (Author)
University of California Press
September 2023, 384 pages


In just four decades, bottled water has transformed from a luxury niche item into a ubiquitous consumer product, representing a $300 billion market dominated by global corporations. It sits at the convergence of a mounting ecological crisis of single-use plastic waste and climate change, a social crisis of affordable access to safe drinking water, and a struggle over the fate of public water systems. Unbottled examines the vibrant movements that have emerged to question the need for bottled water and challenge its growth in North America and worldwide.

Drawing on extensive interviews with activists, residents, public officials, and other participants in controversies ranging from bottled water’s role in unsafe tap water crises to groundwater extraction for bottling in rural communities, Daniel Jaffee asks what this commodity’s meteoric growth means for social inequality, sustainability, and the human right to water. Unbottled profiles campaigns to reclaim the tap and addresses the challenges of ending dependence on packaged water in places where safe water is not widely accessible. Clear and compelling, it assesses the prospects for the movements fighting plastic water and working to ensure water justice for all.


Daniel Jaffee is Associate Professor of Sociology at Portland State University. His previous book, Brewing Justice: Fair Trade Coffee, Sustainability, and Survival, received the C. Wright Mills Book Award.