Bottled water controversy on World Water Day
By Elizabeth Daley, Bay City News Service
March 23, 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - In recognition of World Water Day,
representatives from the Public Utilities Commission, activists
and authors gathered in San Francisco Wednesday to examine practices
surrounding consumption of that natural resource.
"Our campaign is challenging the idea of water as a for-profit
commodity," said Ashley Schaeffer, a field organizer for
Corporate Accountability International and the Think Outside the
In addition to having detrimental impacts on the environment
as water is shipped and packaged, Schaeffer said the very idea
of purchasing water is unconscionable; she identified access to
water as a human right.
"Right now we are standing at a crossroads because over
a billion people lack access to water to meet basic daily needs,"
However according to Joe Doss, president of the International
Bottled Water Association, the ability to purchase water is also
a right of sorts. He calls it a "consumer choice."
Doss said that although most beverages make use of water, there
may be some people who do not drink pure water at all.
"We look at ourselves as a packaged beverage and we are
competing with any other packaged beverage," said Doss.
"Bottled water is convenient, you can take it with you on
the go, people choose it for health reasons and they don't want
sugar, caffeine or additives so they chose bottled water,"
Doss said 25 or 30 percent of bottled water sold comes from municipal
supplies- the same source as tap water, Doss, who said he only
drinks water, claims he is able to taste the difference between
most different kinds of water at room temperature.
Doss agreed that while we may have a choice about whether or
not to buy bottled water here in the U.S., people elsewhere may
"Bottled water is the second most consumed beverage, within
10 years we will likely overtake carbonated soft drinks,"
said Doss indicating the massiveness of the bottled water industry.
"By 2025 two thirds of people will not have access to water,"
Schaeffer said. According to Schaeffer, private companies are
purchasing natural water supplies and bottling tap water, selling
it back to consumers as improved.
"There is a seven step purification process," said
Nicole Bradley, spokeswoman for Aquafina.
Lisa Manley, spokeswoman for Dasani, said that while most water
bottled by Coca-Cola in the United States comes from municipal
water supplies, it also goes through further purification.
Both Bradley and Manley said their company's decision to bottle
water was based upon consumer desires. Doss said the use of municipal
water will not deplete water supplies since it uses 0.02 percent
of ground water withdrawn in the United States per year.
Schaeffer calls bottled water a "recipe for profit"
and said her Think Outside the Bottle campaign is working with
different utilities commissions and San Francisco Mayor Gavin
Newsom to cancel all bottled water contracts established by the
city of San Francisco.
Nathan Ballard, spokesman for the Mayor said there is a plan
to phase out bottled water in city buildings, to replace bottles
with filtration systems for environmental reasons.
Think Outside the Bottle is selling stainless steel water jugs
in an effort to get people to stop buying bottled water will host
the World Water Challenge at the Women's Building in the Mission
on April 4.
"We have some of the best water quality in the nation in
the Bay Area," said Schaeffer, "The world is on the
wrong track," she said, of the trend towards bottled water
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