...its �experience over the years has shown that bottled water has a good safety record, bottled water plants generally are assigned low priority for inspection.� Products that dip below the FDA�s standards are not pulled from the market but are rather labeled with an advisory such as �Contains Excessive Bromide� or �Excessively Radioactive.�

In reality, unhealthy water � tap or bottled � is a rarity in the U.S. But unsafe drinking water abounds in other countries. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 80 percent of all illness in the world is directly caused by water-borne disease and that, at any time, approximately half of the developing world�s population is suffering from a disease caused by the inadequate sanitation of water.

Problems with a poor water supply have other implications as well: in many countries, women and children must spend an inordinate amount of time fetching water. As a result, children are deprived of education and women are not permitted to help improve their community�s economic productivity.

On March 22 of this year, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan dubbed the decade from 2005-2015 as the �Water for Life� Decade: �This is an urgent matter of human development, and human dignity. Together, we can provide safe, clean water to all the world�s people. The world�s water resources are our lifeline for survival, and for sustainable development in the 21st century. Together, we must manage them better,� urged Annan.

Indeed, in an effort to improve water access and sanitation in developing countries, the United Nations (UN) has announced the goal of halving the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water by 2015 as part of its Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The MDG, a series of eight goals that the 191 members of the UN promise to achieve between 2005 and 2015, are designed to help the world�s poorest people. WHO and UNICEF are joining forces to meet the herculean task of providing 1.3 billion more people with basic sanitation and safe water by 2015. Hitting this target would pump an extra $84 billion into the economies of developing countries, providing needed resources for making additional health improvements.

Clean water could be given to everyone on earth for $1.7 billion a year beyond current spending on water projects, estimates the International Water Management Institute. Comparing this price tag to the 9.8 billion Americans are estimated to be spending on bottled water this year starkly presents the contrast between the discretionary spending of Americans and the lack of funds for necessities in developing countries.