Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Also see Health Canada's FAQ
Today's consumer is an informed consumer. But with so many choices, making the right decision can sometimes be a challenge. The Canadian Bottled Water Association has compiled answers to the most frequently asked questions about bottled water. We hope that with this information, you will be able to make the right choice for you and your family.
01) What are the different types of bottled water?
Water is classified a "bottled water" if it meets all applicable federal and provincial regulations for potable water, is packaged in a sealed container and is offered for sale for human consumption. Bottled water can not contain sweeteners or chemical additives and must be calorie free and sugar free.
There are several different varieties of bottled water:
Shall be water obtained from an underground or approved natural source or sources.
Shall be water collected from an underground source from which water may flow naturally to the surface of the earth. Spring water may be collected at natural emergence or with the use of a borehole. Shall have a total dissolved solids (TDS) content at any level.
Shall be water collected from an underground source from which water may flow naturally to the surface of the earth. Mineral water may be collected either at a natural emergence or with the use of a borehole. Shall have a minimum content of 250mg/L total dissolved solids (TDS)
Glacial or Glacier Water
Shall be water collected from glacial melt water, and shall maintain the same consistent composition of the major minerals and characteristics as that of the proglacial stream at the point of emergence.
Carbonated or Sparkling
When the original carbonation level has been supplemented to make the water effervescent. “Naturally Carbonated” or “Naturally Sparkling” – When the water contains at the time of bottling the same level of carbon dioxide as that which naturally occurs at emergence.
“Packaged Water Other Than Natural Waters”
- Shall be water obtained from an approved source or sources.
- May be obtained from a public community water system.
- May be significantly modified in its composition or characteristics through safe and suitable processes.
- Processing may include ozone, or chlorine or any safe and suitable antimicrobial agents or processes.
- Processing may include reduction or removal of dissolved gases or undissolved solids.
- Processing may include reduction or removal of unstable substance.
- Shall as packaged comply with Maximum Allowable Concentrations as defined in the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality.
- Permitted “Standard of Identity” for Packaged Water other than natural waters
Treated water that shall have a total dissolved solids (TDS) content not exceeding 10 mg/L. Treatment used can be processes such as: reverse osmosis, deionisation and any other approved treatment.
Treatment included vaporization and condensation, with finished product total dissolved solids (TDS) content is 10 mg/L or less. Can be called "Demineralized" or "Distilled".
May have a total dissolved solids (TDS) content above 500 mg/L + /-10%.
Optional qualifier in front of “water” in the common name (e.g. “distilled drinking water”, “demineralised drinking water”. “Drinking” does not add or distract from consumer understanding.
May have a content of naturally occurring or added fluoride not to exceed 1.0 mg/L.
02) Is bottled water regulated?
Yes. The Canadian bottled water companies consistently meet or exceed government standards for water quality, good manufacturing practices and clear, consistent labeling. The Canadian bottled water industry is well regulated on three levels:
- Industry Association
Bottled water is regulated as a packaged food product by Health Canada though the Food and Drugs Act. Bottled water companies must adhere to quality standards, good manufacturing practices and labeling requirements. The federal government inspectors of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regularly audit the operations of all bottled water companies to ensure compliance.
As with all food products under the Food and Drugs Act, bottled water products are subject to the full array of CFIA enforcement actions and subject to recall from the marketplace if a health violation were to be found. The CFIA requires all bottled water products to identify the type of water, the company name and contact information, the source and specific minerals to be listed on the label, as a standard requirement for all food products. Provincial governments monitor and approve sources of water, drilling practices, borehole construction practices, rates of production and watershed protection.
All bottled water products must comply with Division 12 of the Food and Drugs Act, which provides for water composition, labeling and microbiological standards.
Good Manufacturing Practices:
All bottled water products must comply with both the general food good manufacturing practices (GMP's) and GMP's specific to bottled water. General food GMP's govern such areas as plant and ground maintenance, sanitary facilities including water supply, plumbing and sewage disposal. Bottled water GMP's provide detailed regulations governing plant construction design, sanitary facilities and operations, equipment design and construction, production and process controls specific to the product and processing of bottled water and record keeping.
All bottled water products must comply with Food and Drug Act regulations that require declarations on the packaging of the type of bottled water, the source, the amount of dissolved solids (total and same individual minerals) and any treatment the water has undergone.
In addition to the extensive federal regulatory requirements, the provinces can also regulate bottled waters. The most significant responsibility of the provinces is approving sources of water, including drilling practices, borehole construction practices, and allowable rates of production and watershed protection.
In addition to comprehensive federal and provincial regulations, CBWA bottler members are subject to annual, unannounced third party inspections to ensure compliance with the association's Model Code Standards of practice that are based on the most stringent standards.
Members are required to test for 160 compounds in both source and finished product for:
- Daily - coliform, E-coli (in-house by a certified laboratory technician)
- Weekly - coliform, E-coli (certified third-party laboratory to confirm the absence)
- Quarterly chemicals (certified third party laboratory)
- Annually - metals, chemicals and minerals (certified third party laboratory)
Third-Party Plant Inspection:
As a condition of membership, bottlers must pass -with an 85% score - an annual, unannounced plant inspection administered by an independent, internationally recognized organization. This inspection audits quality and testing records, reviews all areas of plant operation from source through finished product, and checks adherence to CBWA Model Code (see below) Water Testing and Analysis: As another condition of membership, bottlers must pass an annual water analysis administered by an independent laboratory - covering more than 150 possible contaminants - and regularly conduct microbial testing using qualified personnel.
CBWA has established a quality assurance program called the Model Code. The Model Code establishes tougher requirements than federal and provincial authorities. A key aspect of the Model Code is multiple barrier protection, wherein bottlers may employ a combination of safeguards, such as source protection and monitoring, ozonation, carbonation, distillation, reverse osmosis and micronfiltration to ensure protection from harmful bacteria and surface water organisms.
03) How is bottled water different from tap water?
Bottled water is different from tap water in many ways. One major difference is the source water. Municipalities generally draw their water supply from surface water (lakes, rivers, etc.). Most bottled water (more than 95%) originates from protected underground sources. The distribution systems for tap and bottled water are a second important difference. While municipal water distribution systems often rely on kilometers of piping, bottled water products are produced in food plants and packaged in clean, sealed containers. Lastly, bottled water does not contain any chlorine. Instead of chlorine, many bottlers use ozone, a form of oxygen, or ultraviolet light to ensure there are no bacteria present.
Bottled water is extensively regulated as a food product by federal, provincial and association standards. Tap water is regulated by the provinces. Although the federal government established the Canadian Drinking Water Guidelines, they have only been legislated in several provinces and remain legally unenforceable elsewhere. Bottled water regulations are legally enforceable throughout Canada.
Like all Canadians our members and their families rely on a safe and reliable municipal water system. Drinking plenty of water, whether from the tap or a bottle, is an important and recommended part of a healthy, daily diet. Bottled water is in competition with bottled beverages purchased by consumers who are interested in convenience, taste and a healthy alternative. According to Neilsen Homescan, 95% of bottled water drinkers switched from other packaged beverages to bottled water.
04) Are imported bottled water regulations the same as domestic ones?
Yes. Any imported bottled water sold in Canada must meet all the same regulations as domestically produced bottled water. International bottler members of CBWA that sell products in Canada must adhere to the same standards as domestic bottlers.
05) How do I know my bottled water is safe?
Consumers can trust that bottled water is safe because of extensive regulatory requirements at the federal and provincial levels which all bottled waters must adhere to. According to Health Canada there have been no reports of illness due to non-coliform bacteria in bottled water. Consumers looking for added quality assurance should select bottled water by members of CBWA who produce 85% of the bottled water in Canada. CBWA standards exceed those of the federal and provincial governments. To find out if your favourite bottled water product is produced by a CBWA member, visit the Brand Names You Can Trust section which is updated regularly.
Bottled water is recommended for individuals with suppressed or compromised immune systems (e.g., cancer, HIV/AIDS, transplant patients, and the elderly) by the following:
- Health Canada
- U.S. and Canadian Centers for Disease Control
- A variety of HIV/AIDS organizations
06) How long can I store bottled water?
The current regulations do not establish a shelf life for bottled water. Bottled water can be used indefinitely if stored properly. The CBWA recommends two years.
07) What is the proper way to store bottled water?
Bottled water should be stored in a cool (i.e. room temperature), dry environment away from direct sunlight and chemicals such as household cleaning products and away from solvents such as gasoline, paint thinners and other toxic materials and chemicals.
08) Could I store and use bottled water in case of emergency?
Yes. Bottled water is often a short-term solution in providing safe, clean drinking water in times of emergency.
CBWA and its members work with various local, provincial and federal government agencies on emergency preparedness programs to allow greater efficiency in addressing delivery of bottled water in cases of emergency relief. The bottled water industry has provided millions of litres of bottled water over the years in response to emergencies that have temporarily interrupted the delivery of safe drinking water.
- Donations of bottled water were made to Trenton, Ontario and Moncton, New Brunswick flood victims in 2008.
- CBWA members donated 200,000 litres of bottled water to help many Vancouverites through the aftermath of storms in November 2006, which disrupted municipal water treatment.
- Millions of litres were donated to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
- Over 1.5 million litres of bottled water was donated to the citizens of Walkerton, Ontario after their municipal wells were contaminated in 2000.
09) How can I find out if the bottled water I drink is a member of the CBWA?
The easiest way to find out if your favourite bottled water brand is a member is by going to the Brand Names You CanTrust section which is updated regularly.
10) Bottled Water as a Healthy Beverage of Choice
Drinking plenty of water, whether from the tap or a bottle, is an important and recommended part of a healthy, daily diet.
Bottled water is a safe and portable beverage that is a healthy alternative to other packaged beverages.
Consumers make bottled water a popular choice because it is a healthy beverage alternative at a time when there is growing concern about obesity and diabetes.
Canadians drink bottled water not only for its good taste, portability and dependable quality, but also as a calorie-free alternative to other packaged beverages.
11) Bottle Waste/Recycling
Our members single-serve PET and reusable polycarbonate water bottles are 100% recyclable. Next to newspapers and aluminum, PET is the third most recycled product in Canada. Our members strongly support recycling programs and encourage consumers to ensure their bottled water packaging is recycled through their local recycling program. Water bottles are easy to recycle and compatible with curb side and depot recycling systems available across Canada. Since Canada's recycling programs are much better than in the United States, any comparison of recycling rates is not accurate. The trend in the industry is to make water bottles with less plastic, and has been a leader in the development of light-weight bottles.
- Over 97% of the population in Canada now has access to recycling PET beverage bottles.
- Provincial recycling organizations identify recycling rates of anywhere from 45 - 80 per cent.
- Plastics are one the most valuable items in recycling today and when recycled are used to make playground equipment, automobile parts, carpeting, clothing, sleeping bags, other plastic containers, shoes, luggage, upholstery industrial strapping, sheet and film.
- The larger bottles for use with water coolers are typically reusable (40 to 60 times) before being recycled.
- Plastic beverage containers, including water bottles account for 1/5 of 1% of waste in landfills.
12) Water Usage
The CBWA supports comprehensive ground water management practices that are science-based, treat all users equitably, and provide for future needs of this vital resource.
The bottled water industry is only one among thousands of food, beverage, recreational, and commercial users of water.
According to the Ontario Minister of the Environment:
- The annual bottled water production in 2010 accounted for less than 0.0015 permitted water takings in Ontario.
- 97 percent of the water withdrawn by bottled water companies for bottling is actually bottled and consumed. It takes 1.3 litres of water to produce one litre of bottled water.
- The bottled water industry uses as much water as ten (10) golf courses in Ontario, and there are 700 golf courses in Ontario.
- According to Environment Canada:
- It takes as much as 1,500 kg of water to produce a kg of potato.
- It takes up to 70,000 kg of water to produce a kg of beef.
- Approximately 300 litres of water is required to produce 1 kilogram of paper.
- It takes about 215,000 litres of water to produce one metric ton of steel.
- It takes nearly 14 gallons (about 53 litres) of water to grow a medium orange (4.6 onces/130 grams) and to prepare it, in a packing plant, for market.
- It take 48.3 gallons (about 183 litres) of water to product one eight-ounce glass of milk when you add together the amounts of water needed to provide food and water for the cows, to keep the dairy barns clean, and to process the milk.
- It takes about 45% more water to make a slice of water to make a slice of white bread (10.6 gallons/40 litres) than a slice of brown break (7.3 gallons/28 litres) because more flour is used and because that flour requires more processing to remove the brown colour.
13) CBWA Use of Municipal Sources
Bottled water is not simply tap water in a bottle. Most CBWA member companies use underground sources on private property for their water supply. For those that use municipal sources, they further process that water and the finished product is completely different from the original. CBWA bottled water meets or exceeds all Health Canada's Food and Drugs Act regulations for food products.
The processing methods used, such as reverse osmosis, micro filtration, distillation, disinfection and any other appropriate measures remove any chemical, pharmaceutical, and microbiological contaminants that may ever be present in a water source.
Health Canada confirms, there have been no illnesses reported due to consumption of bottled water in Canada, and advises individuals with compromised immune systems to use bottled water.
14) Bottled Water and Ground Water Sources
Annual bottled water production accounts for less than two-tenths of one percent(<0.2%) of the total groundwater withdrawn per year. Bottled water companies are required to conduct exhaustive hydro-geological studies on all groundwater resources used to ensure long term sustainability. Sustainable water management is a crucial part of the bottled water industry's business. Our members fully support protecting Canada's precious resource and have environmental, health, and economic reasons to do so.
The bottled water industry is a net importer of water into the Great Lakes region. According to a 1999 International Joint Commission (IJC) report on bottled water, for every 1 litre of bottled water exported out of the region, there were 9 litres imported into the Great Lakes region. An update from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources states that in 2005, for every 1 litre exported, 14 litres were imported.
15) Economic Impact
According to AC Nielsen Research, bottled water sells for about 36 cents per litre, or 18 cents for a 500 ml bottle. The typical purchase of bottled water is in cases of 24 bottles or the water cooler bottle. Bottled water critics routinely compare the price of a single-serve bottle versus a variety of products purchased in bulk or through a pipeline. These apples to oranges comparisons are not representative and therefore not accurate. Our member companies provide nearly 13,000 direct and indirect Canadian jobs.
16) Does Bisphenol A pose a Health risk to human health?
CBWA supports the findings of Health Canada that polycarbonate water bottles are safe for use. As part of their evaluation, Health Canada reviewed 150 sets of data, which included the 18 litre polycarbonate water cooler bottles that some CBWA members use to deliver drinking water.
Former federal Minister of Health, Tony Clement stated Canadians can continue to use hard plastic, reusable water bottles; there is no health risk.
As they have for years, Health Canada has again determined that polycarbonate water bottles used with water coolers are safe for use. Health Canada should be commended for basing its decision on all evidence available, including by third party researchers using widely accepted scientific methods. Health organizations (including the World Health Organization), governments, and universities have been analyzing BPA for years and have found it is safe as currently used.
Independent studies done by officials in the European Union, Japan and Germany, at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and Harvard University have found the product safe. Plastic food and beverage containers, including polycarbonate plastic made with Bisphenol A are below the levels set by Health Canada. Bisphenol A is not an ingredient used in making PET plastic. The typical water bottles sizes ranging from 250ml to 1.5L are made with PET and can be identified with a recycling number 1 on the bottom of the bottle.
Any further questions? Please contact us.