As we enter the 21st Century, bottled water has attained Gucci loafer – Polo shirt – Rolex watch – cell phone status in a country with the cheapest, purest, universally available water on earth.

To be sure, there are legitimate walkers, joggers, climbers, bikers, and hikers, for whom a plastic jug of spring water makes a lot of sense.

Eighty percent of the performance athletic shoes sold around the world are bought by people who never have, never will, and never could participate in athletics. I suspect an even higher percentage of inactive bottled water carriers. They are, like alfalfa sprouts, everywhere, and for no discernible reason.

I have never lost a challenge to anyone’s ability to recognize blind the taste difference between Dewars White Label, Cutty Sark, or Black Label scotch.

I am equally convinced that there are few, if any, who can differentiate bottled from tap, let alone one brand of bottled water from another.

And yet, like scotch, great care is taken to order spring water by brand, irrespective of price. I have often suspected it all comes from the same hose.

From my experience, bottled water carriers are mainly conservative and for the most part frown on drinkers and smokers. They espouse the precept – “if it tastes good spit it out.” They prefer water, or want people to believe they prefer water, to alcohol, fat, sugar, starch, caffeine – the very essence of fun.

Bottled water carrying has evolved fairly rapidly from a few people holding small bottles to an army struggling under the weight of larger containers holding more than a thirsty mule could consume in a day.

Even though airlines are constantly serving drinks, including bottled water, a growing number of passengers board with their own.

As backpacks have become a global staple for young people, a limitless variety of high tech carriers have been developed as part of the pack and with attachments suitable for belts or sashes.

Virtually all mountain bikes come with their own carriers, and while few will ever leave the city streets, the colorful jug is an integral part of the design package.

You almost never see a bottled water carrier smoking a cigar, or hanging around a topless bar. I believe the highly visible carrier wants you to believe his only interest is proper nutrition, health, and family values. And if you believe that, you believe in the tooth fairy.

Bottled water, like four-wheel drive, is brilliant modern marketing. Make you pay a premium for something you really don’t often need but for some reason raises your self-esteem, helps project a fresh image. As it can’t hurt you, that may be reason enough.