Bottled water sales in the UK will continue to fall in 2009, but the category is on-track to recover in 2010, according to a new report.

Bottled water sales in the UK fell by 5.5% in volume to 2bn litres in 2008, according to figures released by beverage consultancy group Zenith International in its annual bottled water report.

Retail sales of water fell by 4% for the year, to GBP1.5bn, said Zenith today (23 March).

The situation is unlikely to improve in 2009, said Zenith, warning of a further 3% drop in volumes this year.

Things are looking up for 2010, however, Zenith said, adding that the rate of growth may be 5% year-on-year by 2012. "When you look at other countries, UK consumption is lower than East Europe or Latin America and one third of the average in West Europe and North America," said Zenith chairman Richard Hall.

Pressure from environmental groups, poor summer weather and a weakening economy have conspired against bottled water sales in the UK over the last year. Both Danone and Nestle, owners of Evian and Vittel respectively, reported declines in the country.

Zenith believes, however, that bottled water will be shown to be one of the most environmental drinks choices, while also one of the healthiest.

"Bottled water has the lowest carbon footprint of any beverage on retailer shelves, all bottles are 100% recyclable and recycling rates are rising rapidly," said Hall.