Water use ratio for the bottled water industry is the lowest among packaged beverages
The results of a new study  released by the International Bottled Water Assn. (IBWA) show that the amount of water used to produce bottled water products is less than all other types of packaged beverages. On average, only 1.39 liters of water are used to produce every 1 liter of finished bottled water.
The study was produced by Antea Group, an independent third-party consultant, which conducted the data collection process, verification, analysis and reporting.
In total, nine IBWA member companies and one industry peer contributed to the study, which represents 14.5 million liters of bottled water production — 43% of total 2011 U.S. bottled water consumption. This measure of first-year participation demonstrates the dedication of North American bottlers to better understand the industry’s water use performance.
IBWA commissioned this inaugural water use benchmarking study in 2012 to evaluate water use efficiencies and trends among North American (U.S. and Canadian) bottlers.
Participants were asked to provide three years (2009 to 2011) of facility-specific information, including facility type, total water use, total production and supplementary process information (e.g., type of water treatment, use of refillable bottles). The key performance metric for this study is the water use ratio, which presents the average amount of water used within the facility to produce one liter of bottled water. According to the 2011 data, on average, it takes 1 liter of ingredient water and 0.4 liter of water used for facility processes (e.g., treatment, bottling, etc.) to produce 1 liter of finished bottled water product.
The water use ratio for North American bottled water facilities of 1.39 liters per liter demonstrates a higher level of performance when compared to the global average for bottled water facilities. The study found that, in general, bottled water facilities have the lowest water use ratio when compared to other beverage sectors. The study also evaluated water use ratio trends among the three bottled water facility types:
- Small pack: facilities that package bottled water in containers from 8 oz to 2.5 gal;
- Home and office delivery (HOD): facilities that package bottled water in reusable/refillable containers from 2.5 to 5 gal; and
- Mixed packaging: facilities with both small pack and home and office delivery packaging.
Small pack facilities reflected the lowest water use ratio, with 1.36 liters per liter, followed by mixed packaging facilities with 1.41 liters per liter, and HOD with 1.63 liters per liter. The study notes that differences in specific ratios among the three facility types are largely process driven. For example, HOD facilities bottle finished product in refillable containers, resulting in additional water use for sanitization processes that do not exist at facilities that use single-fill packaging (e.g. most North American small pack facilities).
The study’s data also show that while, on average, total water use and total water production increased by about 3%, the water use ratio remained relatively flat over the 2009 to 2011 study period. This trend reflects the adoption of measurable process efficiencies even while the industry experiences sustainable growth.