The project, named "Searching for good water — investigation on the safety of bottled water sources," will be undertaken by a team of government officials, water experts, technicians and media reporters, to investigate the water source quality of 10 companies.
The team will evaluate the environment around water sources and send samples to the mineral water testing center of the Ministry of Land Resources, a national-level certified testing center, for further study.
A formal report, reviewed by a group of 20 experts from government bodies, NGOs and research institutions, will be announced in December.
"Although we haven't finalized the names of the 10 brands yet, our criteria include those that are most popular in the market, and their major water sources," said Zhen Guoqiang, deputy secretary-general of the All-China Environment Federation, the NGO that organized the project.
The history of bottled water in China began in 1930, when German investors built the first bottled water factory in Qingdao, Shandong province.
From 2010 to 2013, the annual consumption of bottled water in the country has increased from 39.82 million metric tons to 65.79 million tons, with an annual growth rate of about 20 percent.
But there has not yet been an authoritative survey of the quality of bottled water in China, which shows the necessity of this investigation, Zhen said.
Zhou Hongchun, a researcher from the Development Research Center of the State Council and an expert member of the team, said the investigation would focus on the composition of the water and its effect on people, how the source water is protected and any hidden risks.
"Guaranteeing the quality of the source water alone does not mean qualified bottled water," he said. "It is just the first step."
About 14 percent of the country's drinking water sources do not meet national standards, according to a report issued by the National Development and Reform Commission in 2012. Drinking water for almost 300 million people in rural areas is not safe, according to a State Council report the same year.
"I hope this investigation can start on quality of bottled water, then move on to centralized drinking water sources for towns and cities, and then finally reach the drinking water sources in rural areas," said Yu Hai, a researcher from the Environmental Protection Ministry's policy research center for environment and economy, and also an expert member of the team.
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