IWA Publishing

Differences in water consumption choices in Canada: the role of socio-demographics, experiences, and perceptions of health risks


In 2000 and 2001 Canadians were shocked by water contamination events that took place in two provinces. In 2004 we undertook an internet-based survey across Canada that asked respondents to identify in percentage terms their total drinking water consumption according to one of three sources: tap water, bottled water, and home-filtered water (either some type of container or an in-tap filter device). In this paper we investigate the factors that influence these choices and whether choosing to either filter or purchase water is linked to perceptions of health concerns with respect to tap water. A series of one-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) tests suggest that the presence of children in a household and self-reported concern that tap water causes health problems lead to significantly greater consumption of bottled water or filtered water and significantly less tap water consumption. In order to examine these choices in a multivariate framework, we estimate a multinomial logit model. Factors yielding higher probabilities of a respondent being primarily a bottled water drinker (relative to the choice of tap water) include: higher income, unpleasant taste experiences with tap water, non-French-speaking, and being a male with children in one's household. Similar factors yield higher probabilities of a respondent being primarily a filtered tap water drinker. An important finding is that two key variables linking a person's health perceptions regarding tap water quality are significant factors leading to the choice of either filtered tap water or bottled water over tap water. They are: a variable showing the degree of health concerns a respondent has with respect to tap water and a second variable indicating whether the respondent believes bottled water is safer than tap water.

Keywords: bottled water, consumption choices, health concerns, home water treatment, public perceptions, tap water

Customer comments

  1. By John Clark on

    Recently there were two news items in Alberta. Drumheller Alberta and Okotoks Alberta purchased water allotments. The first was from an unnamed party (insider) the other was from an Oil Company. The latter, cost Okotoks over a million dollars for rights to some 230,000 cubic meters of water annually. Water allotments have never been sold in the past. The oil companies, towns and cities received them free of charge as did the unnamed insider. Why then the sale? Bolstered by the Alberta Government's promise of untold riches the towns chose to pay up. This forces the price of water utilities up. When it comes time to export, they will tell Albertans the cost is the same. Edmonton now has the highest water prices in the world (National Geographic April 2010). Following the long standing Conservative dream of including water into NAFTA and changing bulk water to a commodity is fore front in their plans. To the Conservative Governments across the map it seems like a good time to go for the gold! If we export water under NAFTA rules (which are inherently unfair and biased towards the US), we must give the Americans first chance at the water and we cannot charge the Americans more money than we are now paying. The higher they push the prices on Canadian water to Canadians, the higher the exporters can charge for the water going to the US. This is price fixing on a grand scale! Under the new scheme, when it comes time to export, people in Alberta will be paying more money than those people in California who are the targeted export market. Harper is on side. The Canada Environment are running TV is carrying subtle advertisements in fill in spots saying “our water is our finest resource and it must be shared.” This is a north American movement which has been kept away from the eyes of the public. On the east coast quote: “Fortunately, there is some hope that the wisdom of water sales may eventually triumph over emotionalism. Last spring the McCurdy Group, a Newfoundland company looking for permission to tanker 13 billion gallons a year from pristine Gisbourne Lake, received an unexpected endorsement from Newfoundland's Liberal Premier Roger Grimes. Mr. Grimes has promised to use the money the government gets from the deal to underwrite university tuition in Canada's poorest province. A better plan would be to auction the rights and use the proceeds for much-needed tax cuts. (A striking difference between the Conservatives and the Liberals) The McCurdy Group is still waiting for an official go-ahead but thanks to Canadian law, the federal government can't stop the province from granting the permit. "We don't want to sell water in bulk," says Mr. Chretien, "But at the same time, we have to realize that we don't have absolute control of the water. We have control of navigable waters, but we don't have control of other types of water that are under the provincial jurisdiction." Ontario and British Columbia have already said "no" to companies that want to sell water by tanker but if Newfoundland has success in water marketing that might change.” And in Calgary a quote from the Green Party (Still another Fuzzy named right wing party; this one still trying to find an agenda. * The case for selling Canadian water is being presented more forcefully in the media by SPP proponents, journalists, business strategists and investors seeking profits in this potentially lucrative market. * Massive NAFTA Super-Corridors, complete with plans for water pipelines, are in the works. * Bulk water exports were the focus of meetings of the North American Future 2025 Project. According to documents leaked by a Washington-based think tank, SPP meetings in Calgary on April 28, 2007 were to discuss "water consumption, water transfers and artificial diversions of bulk water" with the aim of "maximizing the policy impact.” And the nail in the coffin from Alberta: First, consider the Peace River is a navigable water with the second highest flow in North America! Legislation changes would have to take place; that is Harper's job. In the ‘80s the Alberta Government commissioned a fully engineered muli-tier pipeline by Weatherford on moving water from the Peace River into Southern Alberta, using it to irrigate the pipeline corridor and export huge amounts into the American northern states. This plan calls for an immense pipe line capable of moving two-thirds of the Peace River Flow through the pipe along with the assurances it will not harm the wild life. This same plan calls for 8 lift stations to move the water; each of them using the electrical power of a small city. Further, this project was approved, only shelved, until the weather gets dry enough and the public can see the light or, the political opportunity, such as now arrives. All this ties in with the new dam being proposed on the Peace announced by BC’s Gordon Campbell who at every opportunity is telling the world he is going to usher in a new way of looking after our water resource. Between the existing dam on the Peace River and the proposed New Dam on the Peace River there will be created a large lake, sufficient to act as a sump to draw down the amount of water this pipeline is capable of, all year around regardless of the water levels in the river. If there is a shift away from the Conservatives or it comes to Canadian’s attention they are charged exploitative charges on their water service the whole scenario can change. On the other side anything is possible if water can be exported outside of the NAFTA agreement and Canadians will not have to bear the brunt of the higher exploitative pricing. There is only one fix for this! Break up the Conservative club as in get rid of them! Posted By John to Alberta--The Details