Back in the 1970s we drank hardly any bottled water. Now the market in Britain is worth about 2 billion a year and we consume around 6 million litres every day. A 500ml of a typically bottled water costs almost 1000 times that of an equal volume of tap water. So why are we so keen to buy the bottled stuff when tap water in this country is one of the cleanest and safest supplies in the world and is so much cheaper?

One reason is that many people claim not to like the taste or smell of what comes out of the tap. However, recent blind taste tests by Decanter magazine put London tap water ahead of many bottled brands transported from far away. If there is a faint smell of chlorine from your tap water, then keep a jug of it in the 'fridge: it will taste superb by morning! A second reason often given for choosing bottled water is that it is ‘safer’ than tap water. But the quality of water leaving water treatment plants is monitored daily by a whole battery of tests to ensure that it meets strict national and European water quality standards. For example, in 2007 United Utilities carried out nearly half a million tests on drinking water in the northwest, and 99.94 percent of these tests met the required standard. And don't be persuaded by the lifestyle gurus that you need to drink loads of water every day - there is absolutely no scientific or medical evidence for that whatsoever. Just drink water when you're thirsty and ignore the celebs!

Moreover, consider the environmental costs of producing bottled water -

The energy needed for extraction and processing of the water

The energy used in transporting the bottles around the country or world

The cost of producing and disposing of all those plastic and glass bottles, only about a third of which currently get into the recycling skip, the rest ending up in landfill.

Compared with tap water, bottled water generates more than 5,000 times the amount of carbon emissions per litre.

However, after ten years of soaring business for bottled water, it seems that the tide is starting to turn against it. This follows a widespread backlash by environmentalists and consumer groups who condemn it as wasteful, and even immoral. More people are now asking for a glass of tap water in restaurants and bars instead of the bottled variety.

Finally, consider this – in Claridges and other upmarket shops you can buy premium bottled water from Fiji (only 6.50 per litre), which of course has travelled more than 10,000 miles around the globe, while back in Fiji one third of the population does not have access to clean safe drinking water. More bizarrely, the Japanese sushi restaurant chain Nobu uses
Fiji Water to boil its rice!

So - Turn on to Tap Water and remember how fortunate we are to have such a good supply when many millions round the world have absolutely no access to clean water of any sort.

January 2009