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Above: Marcelo Bautista, a seventh grader at Alvarado Middle School in Rowland, Calif., is one of 14 students to have his handiwork displayed on water bottles as part of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California's “Water is Life” campaign. Below: Artwork by Allison Cheung—a third grader at Fairmont Elementary in Anaheim—was selected to appear in the MWDSC's 2006 calendar.

Bottled water is big business Since the mid-1990s, the market for Evian and other brands has boomed in the United States and around the world. Even soft-drink companies like Pepsi and Coca-Cola have jumped on the aquatic bandwagon, supplementing their product lines with their own successful brands of water.

According to Beverage Marketing Corp., New York City, Americans now consume more bottled water than milk, coffee, beer, or any other libation. The nation's thirst for the beverage is fueled by a number of factors: an increased focus on the importance of a healthy diet, the global rise of obesity, and the popularity of carb-phobic weight-loss programs all play a part. As a result, the bottled water market increased by an average of 9% annually between 1999 and 2004.

A number of cities across the United States have looked to tap into the water market. Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, and Yuma, Ariz., are among the municipalities that have successfully implemented bottled-water operations. Baltimore vends its water—judged best-tasting in the Surface Water Supplies category two years ago in a regional American Water Works Association competition—under the label “Clearly Baltimore.” Kansas City, Mo., markets its water (presented with an “A” rating for taste and quality by Men's Health magazine in 2004) under the name “City Fountains Premium,” selling cases of 24 16-ounce bottles through its Web site for $8.50 each.

Now, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWDSC) has invited its constituents to participate in a project that combines the sale of bottled water with an effort to increase awareness about the importance of conservation.

The district—a cooperative of 26 water agencies serving 18 million people—encouraged grade-school students in the region to submit artwork as part of its “Water is Life” campaign to foster water conservation and appreciation. Masterpieces by 14 secondary-school students were selected to appear on the labels of pint water bottles produced for the district by the Long Beach Water Department, a member agency with its own bottling plant. The special bottles will be given to visitors during inspection visits at member facilities, and at various public events.

In addition, another 36 works of art crafted by area elementary school students were selected for inclusion in the agencies 2006 calendar. Thirteen of the district's member agencies and 16 retail water groups participated in the judging, which began last May.

From hundreds of entries submitted, judges selected 214 finalists and forwarded them to MWDSC judges. Electronic images and screensavers of the winning artwork can be downloaded at the district's Web site, www.mwdh2o.com. The site also offers water education resources for students and teachers at the elementary, secondary, and high school levels, including a water education newspaper aimed at sixth graders. The program is part of the district's ongoing efforts to promote awareness of the importance of water conservation.

“Most residents already realize water conservation makes practical sense,” said Randy Record, MWDSC director. “We want to do what we can to further encourage those habits.”