Consumers' thirst for drinking bottled water is drying up according to a survey by UK consumer magazine Which?

The results of the survey, released today (23 July), show that consumers see bottled water as expensive and bad for the environment. Half the respondents said they could not taste the difference between bottled and tap water, with 18% preferring the flavour of tap water.

"There are plenty of good reasons for choosing tap water," said Neil Fowler, editor of Which? "You can save money, it's better for the environment and it can taste just as good - if not better. The UK has some of the safest and best quality drinking water in the world. It's time we started appreciating it."

At GBP0.22p (US$0.44) a litre tap water is 141 times cheaper than the bestselling mineral water, Evian, which costs GBP0.31p a litre in a supermarket, the consumer magazine said.

According to the survey, Britons spent GBP1.68bn (US$3.34bn) on 2.27bn litres of bottled water in 2006. Nearly a quarter of the people Which? surveyed said they are drinking less bottled water than a year ago, resulting in 9% drop in sales last year.

Speaking to just-drinks today, however, a spokesperson for the British Soft Drinks Association said: "Realistically our figures are very different. We have seen figures up on last year in terms of bottle water sales. Which? is referring to a year in which we had a poor summer, so their figures aren't particularly compelling.

"We are predicted to have one of the hottest days of the year today and people are turning to bottled water to hydrate."

Which? surveyed 3,039 people's in its survey of water-drinking habits and said most plastic bottles end up in landfill sites where they can take up to 450 years to decompose.