The White Dog Cafe said it was quitting the stuff. You could imagine the day when bottleholics would be ushered to the sidewalk as harshly as smokers.
But sales, in fact, never stalled. Last year, they jumped 10 percent globally. Too much easy money (a projected $16 billion this year) was at stake to let a black eye slow things down: Marketing would simply ramp up; it had pumped bottled water consumption from five gallons per person a year in 1987 to, astonishingly, 27 gallons by 2006.
So if you happened by an Acme supermarket, a Target, even the new DiBruno Bros. digs beneath the Comcast Center last week, you could drink in the quivering second wave - entire walls of water, six-packs promising to quench a lot more than thirst.
Bottled water had been reinvented. It wasn't just about portability anymore, or status (in fact, Madonna and Matt Damon were suddenly batting for the tap team), or fear of contaminants, or the gospel of "hydration."
Now it was, well, about everything else - making you skinnier, smarter, peppier, better lubricated elbow to knee - at markups that, conservatively, were about 1,000 percent.
Like the pills in Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit," one bottle - SoBe's Life Water, at 100 sugary calories - could make you larger; and one (Bala Cynwyd-based Skinny Water, with purported appetite reducers) could make you small.
Glaceau's VitaminWater with Vitamin B and guarana for "extra kick" competes with Snapple's Antioxidant Water, a "nutrient enhanced water beverage" that's high on electrolytes.
For geezers, there's Joint Juice with glucosamine. For kids, lemon Bot with "75 percent less sugar then 100 percent fruit juice." (Or 40 calories more per 12-ounce bottle than 100 percent H2O.)
But Hint water takes the cake at covering the water fronts. A few weeks ago its publicist hinted the watermelon flavor could be good for your sex life: "Research has shown that watermelons yield similar effects to Viagra. . . ." (At $1.79 a 16-ounce bottle, such a deal!)
Days later, Hint touted other flavors - apparently lacking in libido-arousing properties - as "healthy snacks to combat childhood obesity."
Of course, there's also saintly Ethos water, available in your local Starbucks. One billion of the world's people lack clean water, it weeps on the label, so if you spend about $1.80 a bottle, a nickel will go to clean up Africa's water supply.
The rest of the purchase price? Well, Starbucks and Pepsi jointly sell the water. Presumably, they're cleaning up, too - like their co-waterists.
Last month, the U.S. Conference of Mayors weighed in.
The cities were footing the bill for non-recycled bottles that were filling up landfills. At the same time, corporate profiteers were dissing municipal water supplies.
Henceforth, the mayors resolved, tax dollars should no longer be frittered away on bottled water, short of emergencies and natural disasters.
The vote came belatedly for a Philadelphia initiative: The city had been having small quantities of its water bottled as Philly Tap, giving it away for events (in parks and such) beyond the reach of regular water service.
There was a touch of in-your-face about it, too: See if you can tell the difference, Mr. Dasani Man.
But Philly Tap, alas, had already been put on hold. As the price of oil skyrocketed, the cost of the bottling contract had tripled.
Can you hear someone saying, "Tipping point?"
Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols.