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UK consumers are increasingly turning to bottled water despite campaigns to promote tap water, according to the latest report by a market analyst.

Datamonitor said UK consumers increased their consumption of bottled water at the fastest rate in Europe over the last five years.

Demand was caused by people's wish for a healthy lifestyle, it said.

But tap water was still popular, cheap and of high quality in the UK, the Consumer Council for Water said.

The average British consumer drank 41 litres of bottled water in 2007, the Datamonitor report said.

This remained far below many European counterparts such as the Italians, 234 litres per person, Spanish, 143 litres, and French, 142 litres.

But growth in bottled water use of 8% a year in the UK between 2002 and 2007 was the fastest in Europe, and Datamonitor is predicting that this would continue at a rate of 7% a year.

Bottled water "is growing in popularity as people choose it over other soft drinks because it does not contain calories, caffeine, or artificial colours", said Nick Beevors of Datamonitor.

In February, the BBC's Panorama programme looked at the cost of bottled water supplied to English and Welsh councils, following requests for details under the Freedom of Information Act.

The programme, Bottled Water - Who Needs It? found councils had a bill totalling more than ?5m.

Civil Service chief Sir Gus O'Donnell wrote to the heads of all government departments suggesting they stop serving bottled water at meetings, but a Commons committee decided to keep using bottled water.

The Consumer Council for Water has also been campaigning for people to drink tap water in places such as restaurants.

"People realise that tap water is so much cheaper than bottled water and tap water in the UK is among the best in the world," said Tony Smith, chief executive of the consumer group.

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