Access to healthy drinking water is vital to human health and development. Bottled water consumption has been on the rise in recent years. As several chemical and bacteriological parameters affect bottled water quality, it is difficult to choose the highest-quality bottled water. Numerous studies have proposed the use of multiple-criteria decision-making (MCDM) methods to overcome this problem. Herein, the two-stage fuzzy analytic hierarchy process (FAHP) and technique for order preference by similarity to ideal solution (TOPSIS) method were adopted to rank different brands of bottled water. The FAHP approach allows working at the intervals of judgment rather than absolute values. TOPSIS is a technique for ordering performance based on its similarity to the ideal solution. An expert panel selected and classified the criteria and sub-criteria. A pairwise comparison questionnaire was then developed, and the weights of the criteria and sub-criteria were assigned by water quality experts. The data on the quality of different brands of water were collected from the Iranian bottled water database. The final data analysis and weight determination of each parameter were performed in Excel and R software Programs. Finally, the CCi (value of closeness coefficient) and rank of 71 bottled water brands were calculated, and the best brand was introduced. Among the selected criteria, carcinogenic chemical compounds with the weight of 0.368 were the most important compound in ranking bottled water brands, followed by bacteriologic, pathogenic chemical compounds, chemical compounds important in terms of toxicity, nutritious chemical compounds with a low toxicity level, chemical compounds related to esthetic effects, and chemical compounds without health effects, respectively.
A challenge currently faced by developing countries is the lack of access to healthy drinking water (Abuzerr et al. 2019; Cobbina et al. 2015). Based on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) report, about 663 million people worldwide do not have access to healthy drinking water (WHO 2017). The increased population growth, a lack of healthy drinking water, and the public opinion about good taste, health, and appropriate quality have increased bottled water consumption. This rise has been considered in the past three decades, with the highest consumption being reported in developing countries of Asia and South Africa (Hu et al. 2011). The bottled water sale rate was $198.50 billion in 2017, a value which is estimated to reach $307.2 billion by 2024 (Doria 2006). Therefore, access to healthy drinking water is vital to human health and development (Fisher et al. 2015).
Natural processes (erosion) and anthropogenic activities (electroplating, metal smelting, and chemical industries) are the main sources of pollutant entrance into the water. Although a few heavy metals are essential to human health, their excess amount can have negative efects such as anemia, renal dysfunction, cancer, and brain damage (Chowdhury et al. 2016; Gharibi et al. 2012; Qu et al. 2020; Qu et al. 2021a, b; Rezaee et al. 2015; Zhang et al. 2021). The existence of numerous parameters afecting water quality complicates bottled water quality assessment and ranking and decisionmaking about the purchase of the best and highest-quality brand. Therefore, there is a dire need for precise and logical techniques for accurate and scientifc decision-making. To this end, studies have proposed various methods for choosing the best option and making the decision, among which MCDM methods have received considerable attention owing to their numerous advantages (Kou et al. 2014; Mulliner et al. 2016).
The quality assessment and selection of the best bottled water brand are difcult due to the efect of various physical (temperature and turbidity), chemical (heavy metals, anions, and cations), and bacteriological (Pseudomonas and coliforms) parameters on water quality and the existence of numerous brands in the market. Herein, by using the MCDM method (FAHP-TOPSIS), the quality of 71 bottled water brands in the Iranian market was ranked. The application of MCDM approaches in various sciences indicates these methods’ strong capability in evaluating problems that possess multiple criteria. These methods accurately assess bottled water quality and aid the customer in selecting a higher-quality brand. They can, therefore, be adopted to create competition among manufacturers to produce higher-quality products. In this study, the grouping and weighting of elements were based on the opinions of Iranian experts and by taking into account the local conditions of Iran. For global applications, a comprehensive model can be proposed for water quality assessment by considering other chemical and bacteriological parameters afecting water quality and with the participation of international experts from other countries.