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When water is made in Italy

When water is made in Italy Rome - (Ign) - Some brands are so famous in the world that they have become, together with those of fashion, cars and wine, a vital part of the international image of Italian products. They are Italian mineral waters, as famous as they are appreciated on the tables of even the world's most exclusive restaurants, where few foreign brands may compete with Italian waters, which are highly popular with customers. In fact, despite the fact that this is a consumer good with an extremely low unit cost, and for which transport costs may be disproportionately high, Italy is among the leading exporters of mineral water in the world (www.federalimentare.it), with a volume in 2004 of over 1.1 bn litres, worth almost € 300 million. And a significant part of its foreign turnover is accounted for by the United States, and even the Far East, where, due to the transport costs, a bottle of Italian mineral water may end up costing much more than other drinks, including alcoholic beverages.
This success should however not cause amazement. Italy possesses underground water resources of enormous quantity and quality. Much is used to serve the drinking water mains, but the waters of the highest quality springs, which absorb precious minerals from underground rocks in geological cycles lasting many years, are mostly bottled. This is a consolidated industrial system, with 250 brands controlled by 160 companies, over 7000 jobs and a turnover of almost €3 bn. Overall annual production is over 11 bn litres per year, corresponding to around 12% of the world production of mineral water (around 90 bn litres). But Italy is not only the leading world producer and exporter; it is also the world's leading consumer. In Europe, where around half of the mineral water produced in the world is drunk, every citizen consumes on average 85 litres per year, but in Italy this figure rises to 170 litres nationally, with a peak of 200 in the north of the country.
And yet the quality of Italian mains drinking water is excellent, and often higher than that of other countries, because of the fact that three-quarters of the mains water comes from deep layers of rock. The reasons for the success which mineral water has had in Italy have ancient roots. In ancient Rome, where the baths were a common meeting point and place of leisure, open to all social classes, the quality of water from certain springs was first brought to light, and people decided to store and transport it. In later centuries, the popularity of spa baths continued to spread, and it became natural to drink water which was attributed with particular virtues, many subsequently confirmed by modern science. Today, every region of Italy has a spa centre which has given its to a famous brand of mineral water, whether still, naturally sparkling, or with added carbon dioxide. And in the future, at least on the basis of the growing number of licences issued for the extraction of spring water, we may predict that Italian water will become increasingly available on many important foreign markets.

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