The number of water coolers, dispensers and pumps across Eastern Europe recorded a slight rise last year, according to a new report.

The total number of bottled water coolers, dispensers and pumps in the region increased by 8% on 2007 in the region last year, coming in at 1.6m.

Water demand growth in East Europe continued to outpace unit number growth, with sales volumes in 2008 increasing by 10% to 1.6bn litres, the report from drinks consultancy Zenith International, released this month, noted.

Russia and Poland remain the largest bottled water cooler markets in the region, both in terms of units and volumes. Russia retained market leadership, with 40% of units and 33% of volume. However, as the early-adopting markets begin to mature, faster growing markets such as Serbia and Romania are eroding the share of the leading countries.

"Unusually last year, dispensers saw slightly higher growth than their electronic counterparts," said Zenith director Mark Groves. "Overall growth slowed, but bottled coolers were affected to a greater extent. Much of this was attributable to the downturn in the region's economic climate, as cash-strapped customers opted for cheaper dispensers over bottled coolers."

Looking forward, Zenith said it expect there to be just over 2m bottled water coolers, dispensers and pumps across East Europe by 2013, with electronic coolers accounting for over 70%.

Unlike West Europe, point of use (POU) coolers have yet to make significant inroads in the East. Nevertheless, their availability is increasing in some more established bottled cooler markets such as Poland. POU is therefore expected to become a key challenge for operators in the future, as is being seen across the West.