In a newly published article in the February 2009 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Research Letters, the Pacific Institute estimates that the annual consumption of bottled water in the U.S. in 2007 required the equivalent of between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil - roughly one-third of a percent of total U.S. primary energy consumption.
The article, “Energy Implications of Bottled Water” by researchers Peter H. Gleick and Heather Cooley, is the first peer-reviewed analysis of its kind. Gleick and Cooley find bottled water is up to 2000 times more energy-intensive than tap water. Similarly, bottled water that requires long-distance transport is far more energy-intensive than bottled water produced and distributed locally.
The analysis finds that producing bottled water requires between 5.6 and 10.2MJ per liter-as much as 2000 times the energy cost of producing tap water. The authors further estimate that to satisfy global demands, the energy equivalent of 50 million barrels of oil per year is used just to produce the bottles, primarily made of PET plastic, almost all of which are currently made from virgin, not recycled, material.
“With the U.S. consumption of bottled water exceeding 33 billion liters a year, and with intensifying efforts to reduce energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, this data should help identify ways to reduce the energy costs of bottled water and may help consumers themselves make more environmentally sustainable choices,” said co-author Heather Cooley, senior research associate at the Pacific Institute.
Download the report here:Energy and Bottled Water