Based on an analysis of literature and data from 109 countries, the report says that in just five decades bottled water has developed into “a major and essentially standalone economic sector,” experiencing 73 per cent growth from 2010 to 2020. Sales are expected to almost double by 2030, from $270bn (£224bn) to $500bn (£415bn).

The report concludes that the unrestricted expansion of the bottled water industry “is not aligned strategically with the goal of providing universal access to drinking water or at least slows global progress in this regard, distracting development efforts and redirecting attention to a less reliable and less affordable option for many, while remaining highly profitable for producers.”

It finds that providing safe water to the roughly two billion people without it would require an annual investment of less than half the $270bn now spent every year on bottled water.

While richer countries typically perceive bottled water as more...