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I'm a life-long New Englander, father of 4 challenging kids (I know: I'm supposed to say "wonderful", but while that'd be true, technically speaking, it'd also be misleading), and fortunate husband to my favorite wife of more than 20 years. I've got over 20 years experience breaking things as a test engineer, quality engineer, reliability engineer, and most recently (and most enjoyably) a Product Safety / EMC Compliance Engineer. In the photo, I'm on the left.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Why is Water so Expensive?

To make a bottle of water, "manufacturers" must pump the water out of the ground, filter it, clean it, purify it, and bottle it. I know: some of them actually add minerals (Aquafina does this), but those ones taste gross. For this conversation, I'm going to go with my above scenario.

To make a bottle of soda, the manufacturer must do all of the above, but also must add other crap (sugar, syrups, flavors, caffeine, etc).

Why is water so expensive? The cost delta has shrunk over the last few years, but gallon per gallon water is more expensive than most sodas. I can understand that in large part it's about volumes: the soda companies have long since been set up to make a ba-gillion gallons of soda every year, so their bottling cost per gallon is more efficient, but still, they have to manage supply chains that the water companies don't have to worry about. Not just one or two, either, but supply of all those yucky things that they put into their drinks.

There are a bunch of logistics to worry about, mixing machinery, testing, extra personnel, guarding secret formulas, NOT getting the orange drink mixed up on the machines for the grape drink, hyper-active mixologists that have to sample all the drinks all day. PLUS, I'm sure that the soda manufacturers have more repairs to perform on their machinery since the caustic nature of all the sugars and chemicals in those sodas are far more corrosive than good ol' water.

The water companies don't have to worry about most of that stuff. Pump-Clean-Bottle-Ship (yeah, I know: a bit of testing, but I'm betting for water, a lot of that testing is done by machine..."Vision" Systems).

Shouldn't water be easier to "manufacture", and thereby cost less? Does this seem odd to anyone other than me?


  1. I don't know why they charge so much....a case of 36 was advertised at WallyMart for under $3.00 last week (our daughter buys it). Is that expensive? It works out to under 10 cents a bottle. I didn't think it was all that bad. We don't buy it anymore, we installed an under counter filtration system. Maybe you are thinking of the price of buying a chilled bottle at somewhere like Tim Hortons?? That is stricly mark up.

  2. Zionks! You're fast! :)

    When I've seen those sales, I look at the soda, and that usually seems to be a few pennies less per can. I could be out of touch, or it could be a "part of the world" thing, but it certainly strikes me odd.

  3. Well that sent me scrambling for some of my old grocery bills. Just before Christmas I bought pop for the kids 12 for 4.99. Maybe the larger flats of pop are cheaper. We don't buy it that often. At any rate, I think it is insane that we are buying water in the first place.

  4. Hehe...it does seem crazy; the filter method is a much better way to go. We have a refrigerator that's got a filter built into it. But a nice, PET or PETE bottle and refill it on the way out the door. Nice and cheap too (cheap like me!)

  5. And in countries like Cambodia and Laos the cost of clean water could be yours or your son or your daughter's legs or life. Mines are often laid beside rivers and permanent water sources. Mines are laid a lot more often than they are removed.
    We pay a lot for our water here, but we also flush our toilets with drinking water while thousands die because they have no access to clean water. Climbing down from my soap box now.

  6. Paying a bundle for my water makes me feel better than other people. Or was that dumber than other people?

  7. Hehe...these days, Nellie, it makes you pretty much the same as most of us!