Despite buoyant profits, critics say it is only a matter of time before the tide turns against the bottle. Meanwhile, a chorus of state and local governments, social justice groups, and college students are turning up the heat on Big Water.
"There is no denying a growing degree of public consternation towards the [bottled water] industry," says Liz Gary, a Boston organizer for Think Outside The Bottle (TOTB), a campaign launched by Corporate Accountability International.
In response to their detractors, some water brands are attempting to revive their green images. For example, FIJI Water, the second-largest imported bottled water brand in the United States, recently announced plans to become carbon-negative by 2010 by using renewable energies and offsetting emissions through land-preservation projects.
"These companies are trying very hard, because being green in 2008 is not a political issue but a moral one," says Paco Underhill, the author of "Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping."