What it takes to bring you Fiji water

Farhad Manjoo of Salon.com's Machinist blog says,

There have been lots of stories lately about the inefficiency and environmental damages caused by bottled water, but Charles Fishman has the definitive piece in Fast Company. You'll never want to drink Fiji again.

The label on a bottle of Fiji Water says "from the islands of Fiji." Journey to the source of that water, and you realize just how extraordinary that promise is. From New York, for instance, it is an 18-hour plane ride west and south (via Los Angeles) almost to Australia, and then a four-hour drive along Fiji's two-lane King's Highway.

Every bottle of Fiji Water goes on its own version of this trip, in reverse, although by truck and ship. In fact, since the plastic for the bottles is shipped to Fiji first, the bottles' journey is even longer. Half the wholesale cost of Fiji Water is transportation–which is to say, it costs as much to ship Fiji Water across the oceans and truck it to warehouses in the United States than it does to extract the water and bottle it.

That is not the only environmental cost embedded in each bottle of Fiji Water. The Fiji Water plant is a state-of-the-art facility that runs 24 hours a day. That means it requires an uninterrupted supply of electricity–something the local utility structure cannot support. So the factory supplies its own electricity, with three big generators running on diesel fuel. The water may come from "one of the last pristine ecosystems on earth," as some of the labels say, but out back of the bottling plant is a less pristine ecosystem veiled with a diesel haze (…)

Fiji Water produces more than a million bottles a day, while more than half the people in Fiji do not have reliable drinking water.

Link. Image by Nigel Cox, via Fast Company.

Reader comment: Sam Finnemore in .nz says,

Readers might also want to consider the current government in Fiji – the country
has been run by the military since a coup last year, and members of the armed
forces have intimidated journalists and allegedly beaten people to death in
custody. I'm writing from New Zealand, which has had its high commissioner
forcibly expelled from Fiji, so it's in the news a lot down here!

Kurth Reynolds says,

I was in Fiji for a wedding a few years ago, and we
went through Rakiraki where Fiji_Water is pumped out
of the ground (about 1000 ft up the hill). We were
told by our guide not to drink the water there,
although it was OK in Nandi the capitol city, and at
the resort we were headed to.

It seemed a little incongruous at the time, and I've
told most everyone (I've met) in LA who drinks the
stuff, but I hadn't actually done a search for how bad
it was.

Try searching for (rakiraki youth forum fiji water
problem), and you'll get a UNESCO report by highschool
students from Fiji complaining about their water. You
could shorten the search by including the word
"feces". The report is from 2003, but that's right
about the time I was there.