Ethical brands, which provide a portion of sales or profits to alleviate water shortages in the developing world, more than doubled their volumes in 2007, according to the 17th annual UK Bottled Water report.

The report, issued by Zenith International, also showed that bottled water companies provided 55m ls to assist households affected by lack of access to clean water during last year's soaking summer.

"Despite such a disappointing summer, the role of bottled water in emergency situations and the surge in ethical waters highlighted new areas of consumer resonance," said Zenith market intelligence director Gary Roethenbaugh.

The effect of poor weather on overall consumption was especially severe in 2007 with record summer rainfall causing the UK market to fall by 4% in volume and value to 2,185m ltrs and GBP1.59m (US$3.14m) at retail prices.

World market leaders Danone and Nestlé saw their combined share of UK consumption dip to 28% following Danone's divestment of Eden Springs. Princes Soft Drinks, Highland Spring and Greencore Mineral Water held their positions as the next three largest operators.

"Bottled water's purity and zero calorie virtues should continue to drive the market forward," added Roethenbaugh. "UK bottled water consumption remains well behind the West European annual average of 110 ls per person.

Zenith predicts 3% to 4% annual growth in the coming years, pushing UK sales to 2.6bn lts in 2012.