According to a recent press release from the IBWA (International Bottled Water Association — dated 3/10/2010, a company called Zero Water Technologies, LLC has become the defendant in a lawsuit filed by the IBWA.

Alexandria, Virginia — On March 10, 2010, the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) filed a lawsuit against Zero Water Technologies, LLC, the seller of at-home water filtration devices, for repeatedly engaging in false, misleading and unsubstantiated advertising designed to confuse consumers about its products and about how they compare to bottled water products. IBWA’s complaint, which was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, notes that Zero Water has improperly disparaged the quality, safety, and cost effectiveness of bottled water in comparison with its own products and has made false and unsubstantiated claims about the capabilities of its products.

Zero Water claims that its products “remove 100% of detectable dissolved solids” and falsely suggests that the absence of all total dissolved solids (TDS) creates a healthier, cleaner, tastier water. In its lawsuit, IBWA points out that TDS is not an indicator of water quality or contamination, as Zero Water insinuates. Rather it is an innocuous collection of minerals commonly found in water. According to IBWA President Joe Doss, “Total Dissolved Solids mainly affect the taste of water and have not been shown to produce adverse physical health effects. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that certain concentrations of TDS may even have beneficial health effects.”

Contrary to their advertising claims, Zero Water filters do not remove all impurities or contaminants from water. Furthermore, Zero Water filters only remove certain organic contaminants for a short period of time before its low-capacity carbon filter is exhausted.

Zero Water’s ads make repeated references to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and FDA definitions for purified water that mislead the consuming public into thinking that Zero Water and its products have been tested, regulated, or approved by the FDA. However, Zero Water’s products are not regulated by the FDA and there is no evidence to suggest that Zero Water’s products have been tested to determine whether they “meet the FDA definition for purified bottled water” as stated in Zero Water’s ads. Rather, water filtration systems such as Zero Water’s are for the most part unregulated. This leaves consumers particularly vulnerable to claims like the ones made by Zero Water: unsubstantiated, false, or misleading statements about the safety, health benefits, and taste qualities of water treated by at-home water filtration systems.

In contrast to Zero Water’s claims, bottled water products sold by IBWA members and other bottled water companies are comprehensively regulated by the FDA to ensure their safety, quality, and proper labeling. Section 410 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (“FDCA”) requires that the FDA bottled water regulations be at least as stringent and protective of the public health as the federal Environmental Protection Agency requirements for municipal drinking water. In addition, the FDA mandates that bottled water products comply with comprehensive requirements, including Standard of Identity regulations, which provide uniform definitions for various types of bottled water (such as spring, distilled, mineral, and purified water), and Standards of Quality, which limit the amount of certain substances that can be present in bottled water products. In particular, the FDA Standards of Quality for bottled water set maximum allowable levels for physical, chemical, microbiological, and radiological contaminants.

The cumulative effect of Zero Water’s misleading, false, and unsubstantiated claims in its advertisements is that consumers are deceived as to the quality and efficacy of Zero Water’s products, as well as the claimed superiority of Zero Water filtered water over bottled water products. Moreover, Zero Water misrepresents its products’ capabilities and makes misleading comparisons to purified bottled water products. As a result, IBWA members have been substantially harmed and this lawsuit was necessary to correct this untenable situation.

[Reporters seeking a copy of the full complaint should use the contact information below.]

703-647-4609 office / 703-887-4056 cellphone (source )

Water Testing Blog’s Opinion

For years the bottled water industry has taken violent beatings from opponents, sometimes over some very good points and other times because public opinion had swayed away from it, but now someone has (allegedly) crossed the line and made some (allegedly) false claims about the bottled water industry — and IBWA now believes payback time has arrived.

We cannot say that we blame the IBWA one bit for filing the lawsuit. If a competitor in ANY industry makes (allegedly) false claims about another company’s products/services and causes that company to lose money, then naturally a lawsuit will follow.

It looks to us like Zero Water Technologies, LLC jumped on the bottled water bashing bandwagon, got caught up in the hype, took some liberties w/ the English Language and/or interpretation of scientific data, and now may have to pay dearly for their marketing indiscretions if the IBWA can make its case in Court.

No matter what side you have taken in the Battle Over Bottled Water, you have to agree that the facts and information destined to come out in Court as this lawsuit moves forward will give us all a great opportunity to learn some things we may not have known about the water filter industry AND the bottled water industry — with all combatants bound by Law to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth… or face perjury charges.

What Does This Mean for the Average Consumer?

Immediately we can expect to see a general ‘cleaning up’ of the language and claims made by water filter manufacturers and distributors in their advertisements. If things go well for the IBWA with this lawsuit, one can safely assume lawsuits against other companies will follow in short order if those companies fail to learn from Zero Water’s (alleged) mistakes.

Water Testing Blog does not expect that either industry will have to fold up shop as a result of this lawsuit, no matter which way it goes, but the less reputable companies in BOTH industries will either clean up their advertising practices or face prosecution. This means, hopefully, that consumers will have better, more accurate information available to them when deciding whether they wish to continue using bottled water or switch over to a water filtration system.

Best of Both Worlds?

What about some kind of bottled water cooler that actively filters the water as it gets dispensed… and doesn’t actually have bottles that need replacing? Sounded like an interesting idea to us so we researched the concept and found a number of office-style water coolers that come equipped with various types of water filtration systems including granulated activated carbon filters and reverse osmosis filters.

Sharp Bottleless Water Coolers
Bottleless 4-Stage Filtration  |  Bottleless 4-Stage Filtration incl. Reverse Osmosis

A person, if so inclined, can also add an Ultraviolet Water Sterilizer to bottleless water coolers. This technology reportedly kills and/or renders bacteria sterile using light of a very specific frequency and results in a 99.99% reduction of bacteria, virus, and protozoa. ( source )

Ultraviolet Water Sterilizer
Crystal Quest Ultraviolet Water Sterilizer

Additionally, we also found a Bacteria Test Kit for Water Coolers that may come in handy for offices and factories where cleaning the water cooler does rank as a high priority.

In the End…

Home water Quality Test Kit

Drinking water can get contaminated in so many ways that to count them all would take way longer than any person could reasonably spend — and not lose their mind. For that reason, and because YOUR health matters, take the time to test your tap and well water every once in a while.

You may find out you have great water and don’t need a filtration system or, on the other hand, you may discover that your water contains dangerous levels of arsenic or lead that could shorten your life.

As we always like to say, “It’s your water, your health… and your LIFE.