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THE CONSUMER: Hydration Nation

Thoughts on a primal element and trendy beverage: water

Anne Kellogg


"I hate water — fish f--k in it."



— W.C. Fields





Trend Spotting



The bottled-water bandwagon shows no signs of stopping. According to the International Bottled Water Association—yes, there is one, and yes, it is international—each of us drinks 22.6 gallons of water a year, and wholesalers sold 64 million gallons of water for $8.3 billion in 2003. The retail-sales number jumps to more than $16 billion annually.


So it's no surprise that new and unusual brands of water are popping everywhere. On the national side, PepsiCo, apparently not content with its own market dominator, Aquafina, recently introduced H2Oh under its trustworthy Quaker brand. Gatorade, the sports-drink authority, weighs in with Propel Fitness Water, a fruity flavored "Vitamin Enhanced Water Beverage." Then there's the cheekily marketed, well-packaged, yet more difficult to find Glaceau Vitaminwater. Locally, thirsty guests at the Hard Rock can buy Hard Rock Hotel and Casino water. And the Terrible Herbst company trumped competitors years ago when it started selling its own brand of bottled water at its convenience stores. The most interesting one we've seen locally is Pure Vegas, which promises profits will go to charity (available at the Ice House).


Though creative marketing and staggering profits are the main features of the bottled-water boom, most Las Vegans will say they drink fancy water because they don't trust tap water. It's a health threat, they say.


Not true, according to Southern Nevada Water Authority spokesman J.C. Davis. "Our water supply comes down from the Rocky Mountains, and we don't have a lot of potential polluters like animal farms and large cities that contaminate our supply." Davis says that of the 100 or so contaminants the federal government tests for, the majority show up as non-detects.


What we do have in our water is a lot of calcium and magnesium, which hardens our water—that's the white crusty stuff that shows up on taps and glasses just washed in the dishwasher. (Our water also has fluoride for our teeth and chlorine to kill bacteria.)


"The irony is, most bottled-water companies filter all of these things out of tap water and then add magnesium and calcium back in for flavor," Davis said. But they don't always put in chlorine, which can be harmful from a bacteriological perspective, Davis said. "When the chlorine is gone, there is nothing there to defend the water."


The source for most bottled water is the tap, and it may or may not be run through a basic filtration system. Other bottlers use some kind of osmosis or filtration system. Only bottled waters that say "spring water" on the label come from a pure source, such as an aquifer or glacier. Always check labels.




The Review



ATM (Acrylic Tank Manufacturing) carries everything you need to create a safe and friendly environment for live fish that is beyond cool. Before we go on, know that the folks at ATM started off back in the late 1990s as creative aquarium types who were first tapped to do The Mirage's fabulous front desk aquarium before they moved on to The Forum Shops, then Mandalay Bay and every other cool fish tank in town. Now they have two retail stores that carry everything a beginner or expert could need—live fish, tanks, filters, rocks, fake corral, live and plastic plants. And it sells Oceanopoly, the underwater version of Monopoly. Boardwalk is Blue Whale and the railroads are oceans. 6125 Annie Oakley Drive, 387-2016; 9420 W. Sahara Ave., 105; 319-7000.




Splurge



By volume, bottled water costs on average about 1,500 times more than its tap water equivalent, according to J.C. Davis. Yes, that's correct: 1,500 times.



Anne Kellogg is a local writer and native Las Vegan who has a thing for purchasing stuff.

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