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A Battle Against the Bottles: Building, Claiming, and Regaining Tap-Water Trustworthiness

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Abstract:

The environmental impact of the rising consumption of bottled water is over 100 times higher than drinking tap water, so its rise has grave implications for the environment and society. This article argues that the increasing flight from drinking tap water is at least partly the result of the growing distrust of the state's ability to protect the health of its citizens. This distrust snowballs through several stages in the process by which policy is designed and carried out. Bottled water firms contribute subtly to this distrust and weakening of public policy responses. The article suggests that some institutional and procedural changes are needed to restore trust, such as proactive public involvement in the problem analysis procedures, increased transparency at the enforcement stage, better science communication, public display of trust in tap water by officials, and labelling on bottled water about its environmental impacts.

Keywords: bottled water; drinking water; policy process; trust; water policy

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/08941920802017248

Affiliations: 1: Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, United Kingdom 2: Environmental Change Institute, Oxford University School of Geography and the Environment, Oxford, United Kingdom,Sociology Department, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, USA

Publication date: 2009-08-01

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