Well watered

I used to laugh at the fancy names on bottles of water. Convinced that a boondoggle was being perpetrated on the American public, I refused to buy something I could get for free out of my own tap.

That was before Perrier.

In the 1980s, the distinctive green bottle was everywhere: courtside at international tennis tournaments, on tables at fashion shows, swigged by the thin and glamorous at discos. Nondrinkers were ecstatic: At last, a hip drink to sip at clubs and bars.

As a traveler abroad after college, I soaked in the Parisian cafe atmosphere along with a tall bottle of Perrier. In places where the local water was suspect, Perrier came to the rescue.

Now, the company that started the bottled-water craze and launched a $5.7 billion industry is rethinking its ads, according to The New York Times. As bottled waters proliferated, Perrier lost market share. The company wants to attract younger consumers who may think of Perrier as passe. The truly cool are more likely to spring for a bottle of Evian or San Pellegrino.

In 2000, Americans drank on average 18 gallons of bottled water, compared with 2 gallons a year 25 years ago. Soft-drink companies are now in a race for best-selling water: Coca-Cola, for example, is pushing its Dasani brand in attempts to dislodge PepsiCo's No. 1 selling Aquafina.

In restaurants, waiters run through a list of still, sparkling, and mineral waters, which each year grows in length and is starting to sound like a wine list.

I still can't help but cringe when I pay for bottled water.

My choice for the best-tasting water anywhere? New York City tap water. And it's free.

E-mail the Homefront at home@csps.com.

(c) Copyright 2001. The Christian Science Monitor

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