Evian, Badoit, Bonaqua - even one of life's most basic essentials carries a brand name.

Bottled water is drunk at least occasionally by half of us, a recent study shows, and about one in six Hongkongers are "heavy users".

The consequences of this madness are clear to anyone hiking in our rubbish-strewn city, or visiting a beach. Is it any wonder when Sinopec gives me two free bottles of water whenever I fill up?

The recent scare over lead levels in the tap water on public estates is only going to exacerbate the problem. But let's not forget this: when it flows through the city's water mains, Hong Kong's water is safe to drink, complying with all World Health Organisation standards. Problems on the affected estates occur once the water enters a building's pipes. And pipes only contain lead when substandard materials have been used.

If you are still worried, boil your water (that won't affect lead levels, though), filter it to improve the taste (that could reduce lead), and by all means get your water tested (it costs about HK$250) - but if you can avoid it, please don't buy bottled.

One in five of us say we drink bottled water because it is "convenient". The tap in the kitchen isn't more convenient than 7-Eleven?

The situation is only likely to get worse. The younger you are, the more likely you are to drink bottled water. The more educated you are, the more likely you are to drink bottled water. So our best and brightest prospects are untapped.

Water, water, everywhere … but not a lot who think!