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Bottled Water Is an Irrational Consumer Preference

According to New York Times columnist Tom Standage, "Americans are squandering billions of dollars on bottled water." Outsold only by soda, thirsty Americans consume an average of 24 gallons of bottled water annually. The motivation for the choice is not due to taste. Blind taste tests show that "most people cannot tell the difference." Neither is bottled water purer than tap water. Commenting on the situation, The Week magazine attributes our irrational consumer preference for expensive water to marketing.

Thanks to years of advertising, we now associate bottled water with "purity and cleanliness," and glistening fashion models refreshing themselves after their workouts. But given that 1 billion people around the world are desperate for clean water, this is more than silly. Think of it this way: Ignoring perfectly good public water supplies, we waste billions importing largely indistinguishable water from the mountains of France and Maine. Just a fraction of that money could deliver clean water to millions of people, saving countless lives. Consider that bitter-tasting paradox next time you pay $2 for something that comes free out of your tap.

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