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Waiakea Volcanic Water

"Premium" bottled water actually comes from the tap, according to a Hawaiian water official.

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Waiakea Volcanic Water

Waiakea claims that its water — sorry, its volcanic water — comes from “one of the purest environments on Earth.” The company’s website touts this awe-inspiring origin story:

Waiakea volcanic water originates in Hawai’i through both snowmelt and rain on the pristine snowcapped peak of the active Mauna Loa volcano, one of the purest environments on Earth. Waiakea is then filtered through thousands of feet of porous lava rock before re-emerging at its source, located at the eastern base of the Mauna Loa volcano in a secluded area surrounded by rich and bio-diverse forest preserves.

For this, Waiakea, which markets the water with the slogan “Drink Healthy, Drink Sustainably, Drink Ethnically,” charges $3 a liter for its bottled water. But a Hawaiian water official has another word for Waiakea’s “premium” water: Tap.

Kawika Uyehara, deputy manager of The Big Island’s (also known as Hawaii County) water supply department, recently told the Hawaii Tribune-Herald that the company buys its water from the county, pumping between 1,000 and 2,000 gallons a day. In other words, the article noted, the water in the $3 bottle is from the same source that thousands of East Hawaiians already have access to at home.

waiakea bottle

Waiakea co-founder and CEO Ryan Emmons, whose company was valued at $10 million last year, told the Tribune-Herald that product labeling on Waiakea bottles, in accordance with FDA guidelines, states that the water comes “from a community water source.” However, the phrase does not appear on bottle images on the company’s website, which takes orders for the glorified tap water.

Additionally, Waiakea, which is headquartered in California where the water is bottled — some 2,500 miles away from where it is sourced, bringing into question claims of sustainability — is under investigation by the California Department of Public Health. A spokesman said the department is looking into issues such as labeling and source water requirements.

In an email to TINA.org, Emmons confirmed that Waiakea gets its water from the county but extolled its “extremely high quality.” He said the company does not add anything to the water after it is sourced.

Emmons said the company is in the process of adding the phrase “from a community water system” to bottle images on the company’s website. He reiterated what he told the Tribune-Herald regarding the California investigation, that it had been resolved by changing the aquifer listed on the label, though the department maintains that it’s ongoing.

Find more of our coverage on bottled water here.

This article was updated 8/11/16.


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