You are hereOfficials say no to Bottled Water
Officials say no to Bottled Water
Picture this. You walk into a local municipal building to pay your public works water bill. While standing in line you hear a gently bubbling and gurgling sound, yes the sound of a water cooler. A little ironic no – private water in a public water institution?
Well you’re not the only one to think so. Examples of municipalities and government representatives opting for tap water rather than water coolers or bottled water from vending machines are becoming as common place as water fountains used to be.
In North Glengarry, Ontario, public water officials have seen the contradiction and taken an important action. In October 2005 the district passed a motion on the recommendation of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit to NOT supply bottled water ‘in all its functions’ in the municipal building or at events.
The municipality decided that it was important to send a message to the public to support their public systems, and to demonstrate what they know well -- their tap water is safe. Additional environmental reasons were cited as important considerations for this policy action. Officials noted that emissions from the ‘production, distribution and refrigeration’ of bottled water, and the environmental burden resulting from plastic bottle waste provided just cause for their action.
In South Africa, Members of Parliament were encouraged by the national Water Research Commission’s (WRC) CEO Dr Rivka Kfir to support their public tap water systems at a meeting of the National Assembly's Science and Technology committee.
In a press release covering the debate that ensued when it was discovered that bottled water was being served at the meeting, the WRC stated that drinking tap water at such functions, “…reinforces the idea that tap water in the major metropolitan areas is safe and far more economical or affordable to drink than purchasing bottled water.” In addition, the release said that “…the Ministers also preferred drinking tap water because of a sense of patriotism as well as exuding confidence regarding the safety of the country’s water supplies.”
Ontario, Canada, and South Africa are not alone. In Lynchburg, Virginia, the Public Works department, expressed concern with the extensive marketing of bottled water. In a mimicking manner (and perhaps mockingly) the Lynchburg Public Works department decided to bottle their own tap water in order to challenge the assumption that bottled water is superior to tap water.
This action helps to draws attention to the massive price gouging that defines the bottled water industry. Consider that as much as 25% of bottled water sold in North America is actually drawn from municipal systems and then packaged with a massive price increase for modest ancillary treatment of water that was already potable! The National Resources Defense Council found that bottled water is between 240 and 10,000 times more expensive than tap water.
While using the industries plastic packaging can challenge corporate marketing attacks on the integrity of public water, it can still contaminate the overall message. Being able to carry around your own bottle of public water is a convenience but it also is a choice that says no to water fountains that are more economically and environmentally friendly.
These examples of water officials resisting the growth of privatized water industry are promising and point a way for local politicians, unions, activists, and faith groups to engage in a critical debate and put forward constructive actions at the local level that can expose that bottled water is more ‘pure hype than pure drink.’
Why not draft a motion encouraging your municipality not to use bottled water at meetings or have water coolers in their buildings, and raise it at the next Council meeting? Cite the environmental reasons for doing so, but also the logic of a municipal association supporting its own public utility. Challenge local officials to set an example that can truly demonstrate support for local public utilities.
Need more information on the issue? Why not order Polaris Institute’s book ‘Inside the Bottle, an Exposé of the Bottled Water Industry’ from www.insidethebottle.org. This best selling book outlines critical concerns with the bottled water industry including a detailed analysis of their consumer manipulations, environmentally degrading practices, and the growing corporate control of a vital public resource – water.
Need some resources to help raise awareness amongst your group in order to pursue this? Check out Polaris’ ‘Awareness to Action’ campaign kit (available for bulk order) packed with useful tools such as a informative pamphlet, notepad, set of post cards, stack of coasters, page of saucy stickers, and a hot new CD by the group absTRACT giANTS. The kit can be ordered from our website, or by sending an email to email@example.com
There is a new brand in town and it’s catching on. It’s called ethics. Crack it open, try it on – the fit is for you to decide.