Why Is Bottled Water So Expensive? (Reasons + Top 5 Alternatives)

Clean water is a resource that can easily be taken for granted. It is readily available to most Americans and people around the world, however, not everyone has the luxury of clean and safe water.

I am never far from my refillable water bottle, but anytime I travel, I tend to pick up bottled water for the duration of the trip.

It’s an easy and convenient way to ensure I’ll have access to clean water while I’m away from home, but the cost of bottled water has always made me question if it’s worth it. 

The environmental impacts of bottled water are well-known, but the economic costs are somewhat of a mystery to the average consumer.

On average, a 16oz bottle of water costs $1.50, whereas it would cost less than a penny to fill up a bottle with tap water. Why is bottled water so expensive? The answer is simple. 

Voss Water, is from Iveland, in Southern Norway, which makes it one of the most expensive water bottles. 

Most manufacturers use water from the exact same water plants that service your own home. 

With such a drastic price difference between tap and bottled water, it’s hard not to wonder why bottled water is so expensive.

The price has less to do with the water itself, and almost all to do with the manufacturing, distribution, and marketing associated with producing each bottle of water.

Consumers in the US spend billions of dollars every year on bottled water, which is a lot considering water is a virtually free resource. Unlike tap water, however, producing bottled water is an expensive, resource-heavy process.

Luckily, there are many alternatives to bottled water that are cost-effective and environmentally friendly. 

Bottled Water Production

Water itself isn’t where the biggest costs are when it comes to making bottled water, it takes a lot of resources to produce a single bottle of water. 

On average, it takes:

  • Three times the amount of water to produce one plastic bottle’s worth
  • Five ounces of CO2 for every one ounce of PET (Polyethylene terephthalate)
  • One-quarter of a bottle of oil to fill, transport, cool, and dispose of a single bottle of water

In addition, the materials used to make plastic water bottles have to be safe for people to drink from, which is an additional cost for the manufacturer.

Designing & Printing 

If you’re ever shopping for bottled water, you’ll notice that all of the options on the shelves have a different design, shape, size, and where the water is sourced.

A lot of work goes into ensuring the labels printed on each bottle have all the information a consumer needs and can be quickly identified while you pick the best-bottled water for you. 

Why Is Bottled Water So Expensive?

Having well-designed bottles of water on the shelf will ensure a brand stands out on what can be a diluted shelf of bottled water.

Being recognizable on the market costs companies a lot of money, which in turn pays off with more sales.

Sourcing The Best Water

Manufacturers need to have access to quite a bit of water in order to keep up with the demand for bottled water.

When water is being used for bottled water, it is continuously tested for quality and sometimes has additives put in it depending on consumer needs. Other times the water is clean water from a high-end source.

Labor To Fill Bottles

The cost of labor is going to be a significant part of the cost of any consumer goods you purchase, and bottled water is no different.

In this day and age, many of these labor-intensive jobs are going to robots and machines because the cost of labor is so high.

The importance of ensuring bottled water is filled properly, the lids are fastened to each bottle correctly, and that the quality of water is up to standards is something humans are in charge of instead of machines. 

Packaging & Transportation

Have you ever stopped to consider how the bottled water at the checkout lane got there? The entire process of sourcing the best water, printing labels, filling bottles, packing pallets, and delivering to stores is all a part of packaging and transportation.

Because of this, the cost of packaging and transportation is part of the entire process, not just considered at the beginning or end.

Water is incredibly heavy, which means it’s going to cost more to ship – especially when it’s packaged in plastic bottles and piled onto pallets.

Why Is Bottled Water So Expensive?

Bottled water is often driven in large trucks, which have a high cost to even fuel.

Marketing Bottled Water

Consumers are picky about the water they drink, especially the water they will pay for, and companies will work hard to ensure their product is marketed well to their consumers. 

While consumers often take the price of bottled water into consideration when choosing the best option, they also tend to go for a brand they’re comfortable with.

The taste of water varies from brand to brand, and consumers can be fiercely loyal to their favorite without taking price into consideration.

The Convenience Of Bottled Water

Obviously, water is necessary for every human’s survival, and the easier it is to have water at your fingertips the better.

Because bottled water is so portable and easy to find, it’s no wonder that Americans buy so much bottled water throughout the year. 

However, if you’re looking to save money, always going for bottled water won’t be cost effective in the long run. Sometimes grabbing a refillable bottle is better depending on the situation. 

Where To Find Bottled Water

We live in a society where water is available whenever we need it, and bottled water is the most common way we can find it.

When you’re out shopping, pay attention to where you see bottled water in the store, it’s often right by the cashier.

Placing bottled water at the checkout isn’t a coincidence; manufacturers and stores know that people will impulsively grab a bottle of water before they pay, therefore helping out the bottled water manufacturers and the stores themselves. 

People Will Pay For Quality Water

Now that we know why bottled water is so expensive and all of the work that goes into it, it seems obvious that people will pay for higher quality water.

The price of bottled water has gone up significantly over the years, but that hasn’t stopped people from buying it.

As long as there is a need for bottled water, manufacturers have no need to lower the price or change up what they’re doing to get in front of the consumer.

No matter what, consumers will always want a quick and reliable way to conveniently get clean water whenever they need it.

The Risk of Plastic

At face value, it seems like spending a couple of dollars on a bottle of water won’t hurt your budget, but the long-term effects could hurt the environment.

Plastic bottles meant for recycling centers often end up in landfills where it will take hundreds of years for them to decompose fully.

Research shows approximately 91% of plastic isn’t recycled and much of this ends up in our oceans.

Plastic waste pollutes our waters, disrupts marine ecosystems, and affects the availability of fish and other seafood. By 2050, it’s estimated the ocean will contain more plastic than fish.

Why Choose Bottled Water? 

Despite knowing the environmental impacts of purchasing bottled water, the majority of Americans still choose to purchase bottled water even though most of them have access to clean water. This cuts their risk of consuming poor tasting or contaminated water.

The convenience of bottled water outweighs the cons for most consumers. But is this the best way to enjoy water?

As we continue to hear the impacts of climate change and our hand in it, it’s no wonder that many people have started to look for alternatives to plastic water bottles. 

The Best Alternatives

On average, a bottle of water costs 2,000 times more than tap water. If you are looking for an alternative that will supply you with clean, fresh, great-tasting water, there are some great options.

The best part about this is that you can ditch the plastic bottle and go for a glass or stainless steel refillable water bottle to quench your thirst on the go. 

There are many alternatives to bottled water and the table below lists out the prices of each system, the prices of filters, and how long it will last you.

We’ve also included the price of an average 24 pack of a popular brand of bottled spring water. 

Top 5 Bottled Water AlternativesCost Replacement FiltersHow long it will last
Brita Pitcher $17$72 Months per Filter
PUR Faucet Filter$28$263 Months per Filter
32oz Stainless Steel Water Bottle $38 Forever
Countertop Filter$60$25/3 pack of filters3 Months per Filter
Under the Sink Filter$100-$250$301 Month per Filter
Poland Spring 24pk Bottled Water$27 11-14 days

Note: All of these calculations are based on if you consume 64 ounces of water per day.

Top 5 Alternatives To Bottled Water

1.Brita Pitcher

Brita Pitchers are a great alternative to bottled water. They are easy to clean and replace the filter, and they don’t waste as much plastic.

The best part about filtering your own water from the tap is that you can refill any reusable water bottle and take it on the go. 

2.PUR Faucet Filter

PUR water filters are a popular choice among consumers looking for a good alternative to bottled water because of how easy they are to install.

These water filters are also known for consistently removing chemical and physical impurities that can make their way into your water system.

Why Is Bottled Water So Expensive?

It’s a quick and easy way to ensure you’re getting the most out of your tap water.

3.Stainless Steel Water Bottle

One of the most eco-friendly options for a bottled water alternative is the stainless steel water bottle.

While the up-front cost is a bit on the higher side, it will quickly pay for itself.

Reusable water bottles are the best way to enjoy the water on the go without the environmental impacts of plastic. 

4.Countertop Filter

Countertop water filters usually sit right next to your sink and filter water right from the tap to dispense from the device.

The long life of the replacement filters also ensures that you will have clean and filtered water for a longer period of time.

On average, you can get about 8,000 gallons of water through each filter before it needs to be replaced. 

5.Under The Sink Filter

iSpring RCC7AK, NSF Certified, 6-Stage Reverse Osmosis System Under Sink, Alkaline Remineralization pH+ RO Water Filter System, 75 GPD Superb Taste Drinking Water Filter

The system itself has an upfront cost averaging between $100-$250, but the filters themselves only cost about $30 a month to replace. This alternative will quickly pay for itself over time.

Final Thoughts

There is a lot more that goes into making a single bottle of water than we may have realized.

The convenience and accessibility of bottled water is something we may take for granted daily, but we are lucky to have it available to us.

However, there are so many affordable alternatives on the market that we should try to use whenever we can. 

Bottled water will always be available to us, their manufacturers will guarantee that. Although, I hope knowing the environmental and economic impacts that come along with consuming bottled water will help make a better choice that involves less plastic in the future. 

Leave a Comment