Local landfills are filling up with empty plastic water containers as more Hongkongers turn to bottled water to quench their thirst. Last year, the city imported 24.96 million litres of mineral water worth HK$127.4 million - nearly eight million litres more than in 2000, when 17.08 million litres were imported. In the first seven months of this year, the total was 15 million litres. Imports of distilled water also increased from 2.67 million kg, costing HK$3.8 million in 2005, to 3.24 million kg last year, costing HK$5.4 million. In the first seven months of this year, 3.37 million kg was imported at a cost of HK$4.42 million. Government figures for distilled water are only available in kilograms. Biochemist Georgia Sue Guldan said the health benefits of bottled water were unproven, and environmentalists argued that it was not only a waste of money and energy, but also produced more rubbish for the city's almost-full landfills. 'Much bottled water is just bottled tap water anyway,' said Professor Guldan, of Chinese University of Hong Kong. 'Also, some of it ... has been found to be contaminated and not as pure as consumers may think.' Professor Guldan said the use of bottled water also presented environmental concerns because a lot of energy was used to transport water and the plastic used to make the bottles was usually not recycled. She said the bottled water industry was a marketing success borne out of fitness and fashion fads, coupled with consumers' suspicions about local water supplies. Green groups agreed bottled water resulted in much waste. 'It is a waste of money, a waste of energy,' said Angus Ho Hon-wei, chairman of Greeners, formerly the Green Student Council. Bottled water is more than a local concern. In the US, the mayors of San Francisco and New York have campaigned to stop city employees and residents using bottled water, and in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and Salt Lake City, Utah, commercially bottled water has been banned from city events. The biggest growth in sales of bottled beverages in the US is not of beer or soft drinks or juices, but tasteless, colourless and sugarless water. Americans spent nearly US$11 billion last year buying 31.2 billion litres of water, an increase in volume of 9.5 per cent on a year earlier. The average American drank 104.5 litres of bottled water last year, up from 63.2 litres in 2000, according to The Economist. Friends of the Earth environmental affairs manager Hahn Chu Hon-keung said many Hongkongers were attracted by the convenience of bottled water. 'It's just a simple act to bring a bottle of boiled water from home, yet many people prefer to buy it from the store because of convenience,' he said. The Water Supplies Department claims the quality of local tap water is 'as good as that of many well-developed countries and regions. You can drink tap water without boiling it on condition that the management of your building is done properly'.