Tom Standage: “We worked our way through the samples, writing scores for each one. None of us could detect any odor, even when swilling water around in large wine glasses, but other differences between the waters were instantly apparent. Between sips, we cleansed our palates with wine. (It seemed only fair, since water serves the same function at a wine tasting.) ¶ The variation between waters was wide, yet the water from the tap did not stand out: only one of us correctly identified it. This simple experiment seemed to confirm that most people cannot tell the difference between tap water and bottled water. Yet they buy it anyway - and in enormous quantities.”
He goes on to say that bottled water is bad for the environment (the energy required to keep it cold, the plastic bottles making their way to the dump, etc.) and talks about drinking bottled water as a lifestyle. He then complains that despite blind taste tests comparing bottled water to tap water, there is no clear winner (pun intended). Also, ... worries about those in poor nations that have access to no clean water at all, and if they spent one fourth they did on bottled water, people could build sanitation and provide water for millions. But as Malcolm Gladwell noted in Blink, people don't taste things blind. Part of the experience of drinking a branded product is tied up in the visual brand. If celebrities and cool people are doing it, and the cool people around you are doing it, then so will you. Well, if you're that type of person. The main benefit of bottled water is cold water now. I drink bottled water, but I bottle it myself from water in the fridge left there overnight. So why he ignores the main reason I think most people buy bottled water to make a political point (a good political point, mind you), weakens his case.