Ensure your bottled water is from a sustainable source, look for the SANBWA logo on the label

Ensure your bottled water is from a sustainable source, look for the SANBWA logo on the label

This World Water Day (March 22) one of the questions you might ask yourself is ‘How do I ensure I only drink water bottled from sustainable sources?’

The answer would be to look for the SANBWA logo on the label.

SANBWA – the South Africa National Bottled Water Association – was formed in 1997 as a self-regulatory and standards setting body by a group of bottlers. In consultation with the South African Government, retailers and water quality and safety standards, it published the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard shortly thereafter.

While this and subsequent versions benchmarked favourably with similar global standards, more importantly for consumers concerned about water security and sustainability is the fact that the 3rd version was the first such standard worldwide to include requirements for water source control and environmental stewardship.

And the just-launched 4th version continues to prioritise protection of South Africa water sources.

“When it comes to source water protection, before a bottler is accepted as a SANBWA member, it must provide an independent hydrogeological and vulnerability report,” explained SANBWA CEO Charlotte Metcalf.

“There are 12 minimum requirements required in the hydrogeology and vulnerability report. Once this is reviewed by a SABWA appointed hydrogeologist and the bottlers is accepted as a member, our Standard requires that a documented source water protection plan shall be in place and risks reviewed annually.”

According to Metcalf, sustainability is also ensured by the requirement that water extraction volumes shall be monitored and shall not exceed the volumes and conditions set out in the water license granted by the issuing authority.

Monitoring water usage also allows the bottling facility to determine the efficiency of water use with a water usage ratio calculated monthly, recorded, monitored and reported at management reviews. The Standard also requires management to establish, evaluate and review targets and strategies to minimise water usage.

“Every year, SANBWA’s third party and independent auditing body – NSF – audits members to ensure that their source, bottling facility, final product and every aspect of their bottling process adheres to SANBWA’s stringent standards,” she added.

“Compliance is achieved by an overall score of at least 85% and 100% for critical and fundamental requirements. Only then are members bottlers allowed to display the SANBWA logo on their bottled water products.

“The SANBWA logo acts as a seal of quality, and guarantees to the consumers the safety and sustainability of the water source. If the brand of bottled water you are buying doesn’t display the logo, ask yourself ‘why not?’,” she said.



More about the SANBWA Bottled Water Standard:


  • ensures legal compliance
  • is fully auditable so that a single audit can ensure that all legal and food safety requirements have been met thereby protecting the bottler and enabling it to prove due diligence
  • helps bottlers identify the area where they still need to improve
  • assists retailers and consumers to select suppliers of safe bottled water

Its commitment to environmental stewardship includes many measures to ensure:

  • source sustainability and protection
  • water usage minimisation
  • energy efficiency
  • solid waste minimisation
  • support for post-consumer recycling initiatives

Minimum requirements required for the SANBWA hydrogeology and vulnerability report:

  1. Where the source is. Two maps are required, one at a regional scale, and the other at a local scale.
  2. What is the nature of the catchment? Describe the physiography, the vegetation, the usage of the catchment, activities in the catchment, and any man-made structures.
  3. What the geology of the area is, including a map at a suitable scale.
  4. What is the groundwater regime, including a description of the aquifer being exploited and the local and regional groundwater flow directions.
  5. An assessment of the flow rate of the source if a spring, and if a borehole, an evaluation of the sustainable yield. The drilling report and the test-pumping report should be included, if available. The actual abstraction rates must be given.
  6. Catchment study: Delineate the catchment, describe recharge to the aquifer and the recharge zones, and delineate the capture zones for the borehole. Note that an exhaustive and intensive study is not required; the hydrogeologist must use available data and provide his/her interpretation.
  7. Department of Water Affairs: Record the various water resource points that have been registered and also the licensing of these. The hydrogeologist must specifically note whether or not the proposed source has been licensed for the proposed commercial use, and include copies of the various licences.
  8. What is the microbiological composition and chemical character of the water, as well as an evaluation of these results? The laboratory results must be included in the report. See reference table 1 A, B and 2 A, B in the SANBWA Standard.
  9. A detailed description of the borehole or spring protection in the immediate surrounds of the abstraction point. Include a note on water flow measuring and water level measuring.
  10. Who else is exploiting the aquifer in the near vicinity, and who might have an impact on the source being described. A map showing these points of extraction must be included.
  11. An assessment of the vulnerability of the aquifer to any form of contamination, taking into account the aquifer type and catchments morphology*.
  12. A review of all potential polluting activities in the area, including an assessment of the potential impact of these activities on the source. A map showing the location of these activities must be included.

Issued on behalf of SANBWA – Charlotte Metcalf – CEO

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