In China, like most other developed countries, premium bottled water represents a hefty market share. This isn’t a vending machine beverage we’re talking about; most of that is just tap water anyway. We’re talking about something much different and, if you believe the marketing department, better. Think artesian springs, think crystal clear babbling brooks, think Mount Everest. Wait, what? That’s right. Tibetan officials are encouraging companies to tap Himalayan glaciers for premium water, and China thinks that sounds like a stellar idea.

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China is home to the world’s largest bottled water market, in part due to the inconsistencies in water filtration and in another part due to the deft yarns spun by high-paid marketing agencies. And tapping ancient glaciers to fill plastic bottles isn’t actually new, either. Water from Himalayan glaciers already makes up a small part of the Chinese bottled water industry, but now that precious commodity is seen as the next big thing, and parties on both sides of the relationship are eager to see economic growth stem from taking advantage of these natural resources.

Related: Big Water fights plans to ban plastic water bottles in national parks

In all, Tibet granted 28 companies with water licenses as of the end of 2014, and that figure is expected to grow by the close of this year. There are scads more companies itching to get in on the glacial water game, and the bottlers are inching ever closer to the highest mountain on Earth. One company, Qomolangma Glacier, bottles waters from a national reserve located just 50 miles from the Everest base camp.

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Some Chinese water bottlers are even, as the Guardian reports, “bottling water straight from the tongues of rapidly melting glaciers.” That almost makes sense. If an influx of melted glacier water entering the world’s oceans is so problematic, perhaps bottling the water to sell at convenience stores is a handy way to prolong the effects of climate change. Not so, according to just about any climate scientist you might ask. The already melting glaciers might be an immediate benefit to the bottled water industry, but the stores of fresh water in that region – the third largest in the world after the north and south poles – are what contribute to lakes and rivers downstream. By interrupting the natural flow of fresh water, bottled water companies could profit directly from causing droughts in other regions.

The worst part, perhaps, is that the Chinese government doesn’t require these companies to divulge how much water is being drawn from the glaciers – although some do voluntarily. But even if the figures were reported with transparency, the question remains whether tapping into protected areas with melting glaciers is even something we should be doing in the first place.

Via The Guardian

Images via Qomolangma Glacier and Wikimedia