Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water

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Gleick describes human addiction on bottled water and how we dispose of the bottles once we are finished with the bottle. The book reveals some startling truths about how the usage of advertising has effectively deceived us into thinking bottled water is fashionable and that we need bottled water to be fashionable in society when in fact all we are drinking is processed tap water that we can get out of a faucet. 

The book is necessary given our reliance upon bottled water and the many ways in which companies are profiting from what we drink.  Gleick straightforwardly points out with illuminating detail, how this water is "found, pumped, bottled, treated, lied about, and sold to a relatively unsuspecting public (Delp, 2010). Gleick also states that there are environmental and social consequences of bottled water usage on the planet. "The beverage industry tells us that bottled water is just a simple commodity like any other food product - a safe, well-regulated alternative to tap water. The environmental community tells us bottled water is a corporate plot to privatize a precious public resource and that it’s even less safe than our tap water. What is the truth?" (Gleick, 2010). Of course, there is a fascinating truth behind companies' hoping to gain our trust that tap water is poison and that it should not be trusted. Yet, Gleick points out that much of that is simply deceptive advertising and that the bottled water we are told is safe to drink is nothing more than packaged tap water. “Tap water becomes wonderful water.” “Too often, impurities are finding their way into the water. While you may not be able to see them, you don’t want them,” Gleick describes in discussing an advertisement for Brita.  Gleick is not necessarily saying that tap water is safe, but is merely describing the functions of marketing techniques that tickle our egos on the difference between tap and bottled water. 

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water packs a proverbial punch is getting the reader to understand that bottled water and tap water are no different and that our environment is not eco-friendly as a result of our dependency. Gleick drives home the point that our ecosystems are in grave danger if we continue down the path we are currently on with our consumption of bottled water. It would stand to reason that corporations would find Gleick's claims refutable and a bunch of nonsense, while citizens would have a hard time initially accepting Gleick's claims, but would eventually come to understand the ways in which they are being deceived. 

Gleick essentially hopes to spark a public outcry against corporate greed and their manipulation of so-called processed water. Gleick describes that the road to saving water's future “has been met with fierce citizen opposition and in many states, including Michigan, citizens have banded together, raised money, and successfully fought to require companies like Nestlé to reduce their pumping of public waters” (Delp, 2010). For years, companies have continued to manipulate the public and Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water does a phenomenal job of unearthing this.

Several of Gleick’s claims throughout Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water, make for a compelling case against companies that deceptively use advertising to instill in us the desire to purchase bottled water.  Gleick points out that “In December 2007, in testimony to the U.S.Congress, the IBWA President, Joe Doss, said, ‘Consumers also choose bottled water over other beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol, and other ingredients.’ Bottled water consumption is good, the industry argues because the growth of bottled water sales has come not at the expense of tap water, but of other beverages” (Gleick, 2010). Gleick also points out that “the Competitive Enterprise Institute launched a special project called Enjoy Bottled Water in which they criticize the safety of tap water, ridicule opponents of bottled water, and promote the industry’s merits. 'Bottled water is substantially different from tap water,' the CEI website declares. 'When compared to bottled water, risks appear to be somewhat higher for tap water'” (Gleick, 2010). Refuting that statement with graphs and logical reasoning, Gleick builds a strong case against companies such as Coca-Cola and Nestle that profit from our bottled water consumption. He is convincing and will undoubtedly create a desire in any reader to check out his claims. It is important to note, however, that at no time does Gleick purport to be the know-it-all behind bottled water profitability and the fact that it is just fancy tap water; but lays out facts and evokes the reader to check them out. 

A medium could be created in support of Gleick and his informative book. In selecting a specific type of medium to aid Gleick's cause, a film would probably be the most effective. Persuasion would be the key with this as the right words for a script would have to be carefully chosen so the public wouldn't think it was solely a propaganda effort driven purely on emotional appeal. The film would have to be strong with facts that when checked would be irrefutable. The same might be said about Gleick's book, yet a film is more powerful in this ever-evolving society. 

Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water brings out our culture of consumption. We are a society that lives off of brand names, stylish items and has moved away from the simplicity of certain things. Our nature is to want specific, not generic. Our specificities about what we buy define who we are as a culture and impact the world we live in. Consumer culture is inherently destructive and telling. Bottled and Sold: The Story Behind Our Obsession with Bottled Water is that thought-provoking and removes the veil around our brand name reliant civilization.


Delp, M. (2010, April 15). Bottled and sold: The story behind our obsession with bottled water. Retrieved

Gleick, P. H. (2010). Bottled and sold: The story behind our obsession with bottled water. Washington: Island Press.