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posted by janrinok on Tuesday February 18 2020, @07:45PM   Printer-friendly
from the will-you-drink-to-that? dept.

Lawmakers open groundwater fight against bottled water companies:

Washington state, land of sprawling rainforests and glacier-fed rivers, might soon become the first in the nation to ban water bottling companies from tapping spring-fed sources.

The proposal is one of several efforts at the state and local level to fend off the fast-growing bottled water industry and protect local groundwater. Local activists throughout the country say bottling companies are taking their water virtually for free, depleting springs and aquifers, then packaging it in plastic bottles and shipping it elsewhere for sale.

"I was literally beyond shocked," said Washington state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who sponsored the bill to ban bottling companies from extracting groundwater. It was advanced by a Senate committee last week.

"I was jolted to the core to realize the depth and breadth and magnitude of how they have lawyered up in these small towns to take advantage of water rights," the Democrat said. "The fact that we have incredibly loose, if virtually nonexistent, policy guidelines around this is shocking and a categorical failure."

Elsewhere, lawmakers in Michigan and Maine also have filed bills to restrict the bottling of groundwater or tax the industry. Local ballot measures have passed in Oregon and Montana to restrict the industry, though in Montana, Flathead County's zoning change remains tied up in court.

"The Washington state bill is groundbreaking," said Mary Grant, a water policy specialist with the environmental group Food and Water Watch. "As water scarcity is becoming a deeper crisis, you want to protect your local water supply so it goes for local purposes. (Bottled water) is not an industry that needs to exist."

Though much of the controversy around the bottled water industry has concerned "bottled at the source" spring water sites, nearly two-thirds of the bottled water sold in the United States comes from municipal tap water, according to Food and Water Watch. The Washington state legislation would not keep companies from buying and reselling tap water.

Americans consumed nearly 14 billion gallons of bottled water in 2018, while sales reached $19 billion—more than doubling the industry's size in 2004. The bottled water industry is expected to grow to more than $24 billion in the next three years, according to Beverage Industry magazine.

Industry leaders have opposed sweeping legislation that would cut off resources, pointing out the potential hit to local employment and the importance of bottled water in disaster relief.

"This legislation would prevent any community from having these jobs or having a project in their area," said Brad Boswell, executive director of the Washington Beverage Association, who testified against the bill. "We think these issues are best dealt with on a project-by-project basis."

The International Bottled Water Association defended the track record of its members in an emailed statement. The bill in Washington and other legislation to limit the industry "are based on the false premise that the bottled water industry is harming the environment," wrote Jill Culora, the group's vice president of communications.

"All IBWA members," she wrote, "are good stewards of the environment. When a bottled water company decides to build a plant, it looks for a long-term, sustainable source of water and the ability to protect the land and environment around the source and bottling facility."

Culora did not address specific examples of community claims that bottling companies have damaged their watersheds and aquifers.

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  • (Score: 2) by Arik on Friday February 21 2020, @02:18PM

    by Arik (4543) on Friday February 21 2020, @02:18PM (#960675) Journal
    "It's not a problem, until the presence of the bottled water industry delays or completely obstructs the construction or maintenance of safe municipal water systems."

    That would be a problem. Any evidence of it actually happening?

    "I have no particular opinion on Dasani, it didn't kill me when I drank it, but neither was it in any way impressive."

    Well then we're basically agreed. I first tried it blind btw - a friend of mine thought it would be a great test since it had just come out and I hadn't even heard of it, let alone tasted it, yet. And that was basically my response. Made a little face. "It would do, in a pinch. Odd taste. Where is this one from?"

    I don't think I've tried Zephyr hills, I know limestone water from springs in western va that is absolutely delicious, but I can see the sulfur being a problem. It sounds like you've got it covered though.

    "If you enjoy San Peligrino or whatever, that's fine - the amount of water consumed with meals is small enough as to not be a real concern. If you simply must have your water of choice at all times throughout the day, I'd say you're suffering a first world problem of your own making."

    I think we are agreed on that.

    "Where the whole thing spins into absurdity is the large part of the population that seems to yield to social pressure to drink bottled as a status symbol, everywhere, all the time."

    I think that's just one facet of a deeper problem, which really has nothing at all to do with bottled water.

    "Of course, I'm probably projecting... my sister in law hasn't been gainfully employed more than 6 months in the last 5 years, claims to have no savings at 60 years of age, lives mostly on the charity of others, and is frequently seen with a bottle of Fiji in her hand - apparently it has positive impact on her self esteem."

    She doesn't sound... wise. Not at all.

    On the other hand if it were a bottle of carbonated corn syrup, that would be even worse I suppose.

    If laughter is the best medicine, who are the best doctors?
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