While Mrs. Obama did not promote tap water over bottled water, many public utility workers in Wisconsin saw her visit as an endorsement of their work. Mrs. Obama noted Watertown had been recognized as having the best-tasting water in the state — an award it received in 2010 from the Wisconsin Water Association, which represents public utilities.
"You know what you're getting with tap water because it's a regulated thing," water association vice chair Ann-Perry Witmer said. "It really is the best tasting and the healthiest for you."
Watertown, about midway between Milwaukee and Madison, is home to Wis-Pak Inc., which manufactures and distributes Pepsi-Cola products — including Aquafina. It's also home to 7-Up Bottling Co., a family-owned business that distributes bottled water and other beverages.
Soler said after the first lady's speech the campaign would be most successful by not advocating one water source over another, noting the choice of what type of water to drink lies with individuals. Mrs. Obama drank from a reusable water bottle at the launch, and the campaign includes a push for more public drinking stations.
Sam Kass, executive director of "Let's Move," has cited federal statistics showing about 40 percent of Americans drink less than half the typically recommended eight cups of water a day.
Nestle said the message that Americans don't drink enough water is questionable.
"I'm not aware of any nutrition science that backs that up ... there's so much water in food and in what people are eating that unless you're an elite athlete, at very high altitude or old where your thirst mechanism doesn't work very well, it's just simply a non-issue in my view," Nestle said.
Associated Press writer Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.
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