In just four decades, bottled water has transformed from a luxury niche item into a ubiquitous consumer product, representing a $300 billion market dominated by global corporations. It sits at the convergence of a mounting ecological crisis of single-use plastic waste and climate change, a social crisis of affordable access to safe drinking water, and a struggle over the fate of public water systems. Unbottled: The Fight Against Plastic Water and for Water Justice (U California Press, 2023) examines the vibrant movements that have emerged to question the need for bottled water and challenge its growth in North America and worldwide.
Drawing on extensive interviews with activists, residents, public officials, and other participants in controversies ranging from bottled water's role in unsafe tap water crises to groundwater extraction for bottling in rural communities, Daniel Jaffee asks what this commodity's meteoric growth means for social inequality, sustainability, and the human right to water. Unbottled profiles campaigns to reclaim the tap and addresses the challenges of ending dependence on packaged water in places where safe water is not widely accessible. Clear and compelling, it assesses the prospects for the movements fighting plastic water and working to ensure water justice for all.
Joshua Mullenite is an Assistant Professor and the Director of the Sustainability programs at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA. They can be found on Mastodon at https://fediscience.org/@mullenite