Mineral water is water that is sold in bottles at a premium over regular water. In consumers’ minds, mineral water contains enough minerals to change the taste of the water, and to possibly have some health benefits, even if it is just settling an overfed tummy.
Mineral waters are drawn, at least in theory, from natural springs. They may emerge from the ground cold, warm or hot. The taste of the water can generally be categorized as alkaline, bitter, sulphurous, salty, etc. The minerals present may include calcium, fluoride, iron, magnesium sulphate, and sodium. Some may be even slightly radioactive. Different combinations of minerals are said to be good for different ailments, internal and external.
To be called mineral water in America, there must be at least 250 parts per million of dissolved minerals in the water, and no minerals are allowed to be added. It must bear the designation “Natural Mineral Water.” Carbon dioxide, however, can be added to turn it into sparkling mineral water.
In Italy, the law forbids the sale of mineral in bottles larger than 2 litres.
Not all mineral waters are bottled. This occurs in instances where the asserted properties of the water are said to disappear very quickly after the water reaches the surface, whether bottled or not. This has the side benefit of promoting a local hotel business, because you must travel to the location to sample the waters. Tourist areas grew up around sites such as Bath in England, Vichy in France, Karlsbad in the Czech Republic, and Ukiah, California to accommodate those coming “to the waters.” Some cynics believe that most of the benefits that come from “taking the cure” at a mineral water spa can be attributed to rest and relaxation.
In the 1800s, mineral water for drinking was sold at first in stoneware jugs, then glass bottles.
Carlsbad, California promoted its mineral waters by renaming itself in the 1800s to Carlsbad from “Frazier’s Station” and trading on the fame of Karlsbad (in what is now the Czech Republic.) They even built an imitation Germany-style building called the “Alt Karlsbad” in 1964.
Reichsführer-SS Heinrich Himmler saw that as European territory was occupied, from the 1930s onwards, all mineral water production and profits became the property of his Schutzstaffel (SS). By 1942, the SS controlled all mineral water production in Europe. It was part of Himmler’s strategy to secure a source of funding for his activities that would be unaffected by other rivalries at the top of the Nazi party.