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Canada: Coquitlam Mayor Slams Bottled Water
By Jeff Nagel
Bottled water is increasingly the top choice of young people who have grown up unscrewing a cap instead of opening a tap for drinking water.
That’s a misguided, costly and wasteful attitude, says Port Coquitlam Mayor Scott Young, who chairs the Greater Vancouver Regional District’s water committee.
“Many of us complain about the price of gasoline,” he said. “But on a litre-to-litre basis you’re paying more for bottled water. And it’s completely unnecessary.”
The GVRD is planning a campaign to promote tap water and swim upstream against what has been a triumph of marketing for water bottlers.
Canadian sales of bottled water climbed 17 per cent last year.
Critics say the bottled water industry is profiting by subtly fostering the belief tap water is unsafe or undesirable.
Young said many young people he’s talked to see bottled water as the main source of drinking water.
“We find that somewhat troubling,” he said. “We have the very best drinking water in the world.”
Young is particularly galled that more residents are paying for bottled water rather than tap water when the GVRD is in the midst of paying $600 million to build a Seymour-Capilano Filtration Plant that will further increase the water quality here.
“We’ll have the world’s largest Brita filter anywhere,” he said. “This represents a significant outlay of cash by the region. There’s no reason to be paying twice.”
The war of words started up earlier this year when the GVRD, joined by area medical health officers, denounced filter maker Brita’s television ads that show a water glass filling with tap water to the sound of a flushing toilet.
Young said tap water is tested more frequently and subject to more stringent federal regulations than bottled water, which falls under food regulations.
Bottled water industry reps say their customers choose bottles for a combination of the aesthetic quality of the water and convenience.
The Canadian Bottled Water Association says customers can be assured bottled water doesn’t contain pathogens like giardia and cryptosporidium sometimes found in tap water.
But Young said there are also impacts on the GVRD’s landfills.
He said the plastic bottles aren’t all recycled and contribute to the 9.3 per cent of plastic that goes to area landfills.
B.C. Tap Water Alliance spokesman Will Koop says he doesn’t buy bottled water.
“It’s a rip-off,” he said. “To keep fresh water in plastic containers that stands still in warm places is not really a very smart idea.”
Anyone who dislikes chlorine can let it dissipate by putting tap water in a glass container in the fridge, he said.
The Sierra Legal Defence Fund this fall called for federal regulation of the bottled water industry.