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Local View: From the land of sky blue -- bottles?

When I first came to Minnesota years ago, Hamm's beer had a popular jingle: "From the land of sky blue waters." Since then, the Hamm's brewery shut down in St. Paul, and Hamm's has been bought and sold by everybody on earth, including the tooth fairy.

More permanent has been the inscription on our license plates: "Land of 10,000 Lakes." And, of course, we do have magnificent lakes: Superior, Minnetonka, Mille Lacs, and others.

John FreivaldsSo why, pray tell, do our grocery stores have aisles upon aisles of imported bottled water? Doesn't anyone want to drink our water? The Dakota Sioux even drank from "cloudy waters," which is what "Minnesota" means.

I recently got involved in the water world as Latvian consul to Minnesota when Latvia began exporting water to the U.S., and my expertise was sought (after all, I drink eight glasses of water a day — and not every one mixed with Scotch).

When I came to Minnesota to work in the grain business, my boss took me aside and said, "John, there are two surefire ways to make money, sell water or air!" For years, soft drink companies sold flavored water and sweetened it with sugar until the dentist bills started adding up and waistlines expanded.

In millennial parlance, we no longer drink water because we are thirsty but because we need to be hydrated. The International Beverage Marketing Association states that by 2019, bottled water will be the No. 1 packaged beverage.

"Clean water," like Hamm's beer, has become a product, and to sell it you have to give it a cachet, if not a slogan. To wit, I spent a couple of days combing the aisles of grocery and liquor stores to check out how the water world is marketing itself.

We all agree that water from France sounds sexier than water from Botswana, and thus we have Perrier and Evian. Alas, years ago, some benzene was found in a bunch of Perrier, and it got knocked out of the No. 1 spot, replaced, it seems, by Pellegrino of Italy ("Bottled at the source, San Pellegrino Terme"). Ferrarelle is also from Italy. Costco obviously got tired of selling these other Italian waters, so it started selling "Kirkland: Italian Sparkling Mineral Water." Then we have Fiji Water from artesian wells in Fiji. But the best name belongs to 10 Thousand BC from Glacial Canada.

OK, this is in blatant self interest: "Amrita: Water of Youth" comes from Latvia. And who can top the claim that, "Amrita increases a person's ability to delay aging as well as helps the organism to resist disease. ... Amrita's ph level is 9.6, which means that Amrita increases the ability of cells in the human body to absorb oxygen more than 200 times!" Did you get all that?

Not to be outdone, 10 Thousand BC from Glacial Canada proclaims, "The molecules in 10 Thousand BC premium water have a unique micro-structure formed by the 10,000-year-old Hat Mountain glacier in Beautiful British Columbia. The smaller structure of the water molecules has been scientifically proven to be absorbed quicker and more easily into your cells."

One Minnesota food chain is fighting back with its own "all natural spring water. It's from glacially formed springs." Heck, isn't that all Minnesota water?

Even Coca-Cola has used its marketing muscle to keep its water, Dasani, in a top spot in the bottled-water market. This, even though Bing.com refers to Dasani as "regular tap water. ... The Coca-Cola Company, which makes it, treats it and removes a number of minerals from it and adds their own blend of minerals."

This, of course, raises the question: Why not just take a Dasani bottle and keep filling it from your kitchen tap? Or any water bottle, for that matter. Over the course of a year, you will saves gallons of money.

John Freivalds of Wayzata, Minn., is the honorary consul for Latvia in Minnesota and the author of six books. His website is jfapress.com.