Bottled water suppliers have joined forces to establish the first dedicated water body in a bid to battle the barrage of negative publicity the sector faces.

The National Hydration Council, which has been set up by Danone Waters, Highland Spring and Nestlé Waters, will promote the “environmental, health and other sustainable benefits of natural bottled water”.

Providing information and advice for researchers, government, the industry, media and public, it was the first such body of its kind, said NHC director Jeremy Clarke. “Previously there was no authoritative industry-wide organisation,” he said.

The NHC is keen to dispel myths about bottled water. “Not many people realise it has a lower environmental footprint than other packaged beverages, coming from fully sustainable sources and in recyclable packaging,” said Paolo Sangiorgi, managing director of Nestlé Waters.

Highland Spring chief executive Les Montgomery used the launch to extol the virtues of bottled water over tap. “Consumers are increasingly keen to know exactly where their bottled water comes from and appreciate the fact it cannot be treated with any chemicals, unlike tap water,” he said.

The move is rumoured to have caused tension between the companies and the British Soft Drink Association (BSDA), which previously handled many of the functions of the new council, although officially it has lent its support. “BSDA supports research into the benefits of bottled water and the communication of scientific opinion on issues such as health and the environment,” it said.