In recent years, the consumption of refillable bottled water has increased considerably in emerging countries. However, the quality of this water is often questionable, as authorities lack the capacity to properly check refilling depots. Given that refillable bottled water not only replaces unimproved water sources, but also better-quality sources, like piped and branded bottled water, its increasing use poses a major health risk. We investigate the motives behind the decision to switch to refillable bottled water in Indonesia. Findings indicate that this switch is driven by lifestyle motives, as well as by cost and availability considerations. It is mostly the young affluent households who switch from piped and ‘other’ sources to refillable bottled water. In rural areas, the tendency to make this switch is negatively affected by availability problems and the higher price of refillable bottled water. Availability and cost also influence the switch from branded bottled to refillable bottled water, but here it is the poorer households who have a higher propensity to switch. Further exploration of the lifestyle motive and affordability issues, as well as better monitoring of the refilling depots, are needed to improve the quality of drinking water in Indonesia and other emerging countries.
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