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Blog Posts: Bottled water

July 11th, 2014

Give Detroit Real Relief: Turn the Taps Back On

By Katherine Cirullo

Right now, in the heat of midsummer, thousands of Detroiters do not have access to safe drinking water, cannot flush their toilets, bathe their children, wash their dishes or boil water to cook food to feed their families. This is what happens when we treat water like a commodity instead of a common resource and basic human right.

The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department says that more than 80,000 residential households are in arrears, in addition to many Detroit businesses, so it is cutting off service to households that cannot pay their bills. With nearly 40 percent of Detroit residents living in poverty, water bills are simply unaffordable for these households. That’s why the United Nations (UN) recently declared the shut-offs in Detroit a violation of the human right to water and has called for immediate restoration of this essential service. 

It is in this context that Nestlé Waters North America has revved up its PR machine after delivering bottled water to Detroit residents. Does Nestlé believe that this gesture will actually relieve the horrible, unsanitary and unsafe conditions of a mid-summer without running water? Or is it simply banking on the fact that its PR stunt may pay off down the road?

The decision to deliver one truckload of bottled water to Detroit is not enough to fix the city’s water woes, and it seems the real beneficiary of Nestlé’s PR stunt is Nestlé.

While we do not wish for anyone to go thirsty, and we appreciate the efforts of the groups in Detroit doing all they can to help their neighbors, Nestlé’s gesture completely misses the seriousness of the situation. A family cannot actually survive the summer’s conditions on bottled water, let alone a small, limited amount of it. Bottled water is not practical for flushing toilets. It cannot keep children clean and fed, and it cannot prevent the spread of disease. Detroiters don’t need environmentally wasteful and inconvenient water that costs thousands of times more than their tap water. They need their pipes turned back on.

Second, Nestlé’s bottled water delivery (water, mind you, that has been usurped from communities that need it) to Detroiters casts a curious shadow on the root of the issue: the privatization and commodification of our water resources.

Bottled water takes public water supplies to sell at prices that are unaffordable for many people around the world. If given the chance, the industry would create a world where rich people buy their water in expensive, environmentally damaging bottles, while our public water systems erode and deteriorate, leaving poor people without safe and clean water.

In Detroit, we’re seeing the consequences of what happens when government bureaucrats treat water like a commodity. The Detroit Water Board uses that false notion to rationalize cutting service off to people that genuinely cannot afford to pay their bills. It is unconscionable to leave poverty-stricken households, including families with small children, without water during the heat of summer.

Water is not a widget to be bought and sold. It is an essential public service and a common resource. Our elected officials have a fundamental responsibility to ensure that everyone has access to safe and affordable water service. 

In the midst of this internationally-recognized water crisis, bottled water cannot prevent this looming public health crisis, but turning the taps back on will. Take action to give Detroit real relief: restored service at an affordable rate.

June 25th, 2014

How One Woman Exercised Her Power to Take Back the Tap

By Sydney Baldwin and Katherine Cirullo


Modern superheroes don’t wear capes anymore. In fact, they’re just like you and 
me — they stand behind us in the grocery line and walk past us on their way to work. Lynn Hartung is one such superhero. She has taken it upon herself to demand change in her community and beyond, not taking “no” for an answer.  

A cognitive behavioral therapist, activist, and mom based in Michigan, Hartung has launched a campaign to eliminate plastic water bottle waste at her local gym and, eventually, at all fitness centers. Her passion for the environment stems from her mother’s constant recycling efforts and her father’s love of the outdoors. Lynn is also inspired by her daughter, an environmental organizer for The Sierra Club. So when Lynn noticed that her gym club was not taking the initiative to recycle plastic water bottles, she stepped in to correct that problem.

Read the full article…

April 25th, 2014

3,500 Winners in Tap-a-palooza Contest

By Katy Kiefer

Tap-a-palooza winners

Students at UNLV collect pledges to choose tap over bottled water, putting their school at the top of the 2014 Tap-a-palooza contest leaderboard 

Ok, there were technically two winners of the second annual Tap-a-palooza campus contest, but all 3,500+ of those who pledged to choose tap over bottled water came out on top.

University of Nevada – Las Vegas, and Dartmouth College won this year’s contest, collecting a combined total of nearly 1,900 pledges during the one-month competition. UNLV won the top overall pledge total, and Dartmouth won the per capita title, collecting the most pledges as a percentage of their school size (14 percent).

The nearly three-dozen schools that participated schools collected pledges to choose tap water over bottled during the month between World Water Day (March 22) and Earth Day (April 22). Through regular tabling events, plastering their campuses with signs, email and social media outreach and making announcements in classes, students collected over 3,500 pledges to reduce bottled water consumption by choosing the tap. Based on an average consumption of 220 bottles per person per year, this year’s contest theoretically reduced over 770,000 bottles from the waste stream.

Students across the country are fighting back against the bottled water industry’s attempts to undermine trust in our public water resources. Bottled water harms the environment, contributing to climate change through the production and transportation of plastic bottles. And despite efforts to promote recycling, one in four plastic bottles ends up in landfills, lakes, streams and oceans. Tap water has the lowest carbon footprint of any beverage and costs thousands of times less than bottled water.

The two winning schools will receive $1,500 to install a new hydration station on their campus in order to increase access to affordable, public water. During the first-ever Tap-a-palooza competition last year, Dartmouth took home both prizes in top overall and per capita pledges collected, and along with matching funds from their administration, put the winnings to use to install four new hydration stations over the summer to help students refill their reusable bottles on campus.

Cheresa Taing, co-leader of the Take Back the Tap initiative at UNLV (à https://www.facebook.com/tbttunlv.chapter?fref=ts)had this to say about participating in the contest this year:

“UNLV’s Take Back the Tap is ecstatic to have been given the opportunity to do a great deed for our community in Las Vegas, Nevada. The Tap-a-Palooza contest provided us with an understanding that our small group can create big change. Thank you to  all our team members and supporters. This was a true collaborative effort and many organizations at UNLV really helped us win, we couldn’t have done it without everyone’s support.”

Students interested in starting a Take Back the Tap initiative at their school can learn more about the program here: http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/take-back-the-tap/students/

March 21st, 2014

Five Ways You Can Make a Splash On World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo

Water is life. Water is also a limited resource that’s under high demand. Here at Food & Water Watch, we’re fighting a global battle to protect the right to safe, clean, affordable water for everyone now, and for years to come. It’s a battle that we care deeply about and it pervades many of the issues we work on. That’s why tomorrow, on World Water Day, we’re inviting you to dive in and join us in the fight to promote sustainable water management, protect the human right to water and prevent the impending global water crisis. Here are five ways you can take action on World Water Day.

1. Add these two inspirational gems to your spring reading list: Blue Future and Ogallala Road. These profound, yet comprehensive books offer unique perspectives on the past and future of the water crisis:

Blue Future: Protecting Water For People and the Planet Forever by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow, exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. The latest in Barlow’s best-selling series, Blue Future lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis, as well as the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning by Julene Bair is a powerful personal history of her family’s western Kansas farm located on the Ogallala Aquifer. In the narrative, Bair reveals the struggles she grappled with when watching her family switch from dry-land farming to unsustainable irrigation. The story is a telling glimpse into one aspect of the world’s water saga. Visit her website for book events and appearances.

2. Encourage your classmates to kick the bottled water habit and to take back the tap! Be the force of change on your college campus by joining this year’s Tap-A-Palooza contest: Read the full article…

December 26th, 2013

Top 13 Reasons to Raise Your Glass to 2013

By Katherine Cirullo

As the year comes to an end, Food & Water Watch has a lot of reasons to celebrate. And the truth is, we owe it all to you! Without the dedication and support of our members, activists and allies, we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish the 40-plus victories we achieved in 2013. Whether you volunteered your Saturday morning with us, signed a petition, wrote a letter to your local elected official, gave a donation, attended a rally, asked questions at a hearing or spread the word on Facebook – you contributed to reaching goals that we could never have accomplished without you. Your enthusiasm about our work – ensuring safe food, clean water and access to common resources now and for generations to come –never ceases to inspire us. We couldn’t be more grateful.


Food & Water Watch Greetings

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In 2013, together with our allies we: Read the full article…

November 14th, 2013

The Bottled Water Industry Continues to Target New Moms

By Katherine Cirullo

DS Waters of America, Inc. is a company that sells brewed coffee and tea beverages, break room supplies, equipment and services for water filtration systems and, of course, bottled water. What’s more? One of their dozen or so bottled water brands is marketed specifically for babies—and once again, their target is exhausted new moms. Just when you thought they couldn’t go any lower, the bottled water industry has hit rock bottom. DS Waters’ “Nursery” brand is another glaring example of how corporations are increasingly exploiting a public resource we cannot live without, bottling it, marketing it to a vulnerable consumer population and selling it to make a profit.

Back in 2012, Nestlé pushed two products on consumers in developing nations: infant formula and bottled water, defined by the company as “Popularly Positioned Products” that target “less affluent consumers in emerging markets.” Why? Because in selling infant formula to their target demographic of poor mothers in countries without safe drinking water, they would also sell the bottled water needed to prepare that infant formula. This is dubious marketing that, as Food & Water Watch’s executive director Wenonah Hauter stated in 2012, “undermines public health in the name of profit.”

DS Waters picked up on Nestlé’s troublesome tactics. “Nursery Water for Babies and Toddlers” is quite similar to one of Nestlé’s “Popularly Positioned Products.” Nursery’s ads are emotionally driven to sell health via bottled water to an impressionable market – new moms. Visit their website and you’ll be bombarded with idyllic images and messaging that claims Nursery water is what every Mom needs to raise a healthy child; mix it with formula, add it to juice! The company has brought all of its cards to the table in an attempt to win the minds of a population whose newest concern in life is to provide what’s best for their children. What’s actually best, DS Waters, is a world where corporations don’t commodify our essential public resources.

Bottled water is not safer than tap water. The Nursery brand boasts about its product’s nutrients and fluoride levels, but we see through their ploy. Tap water is actually subject to stricter regulation than bottled water. Moreover, tap water is much more affordable than what the industry is selling.

Even worse, bottled water is increasingly taken from tap water sources. In 2009, almost 50 percent of all bottled water came from municipal tap water supplies.

We cannot allow corporations to commodify a public, not to mention precious, resource. When companies gain access to municipal water sources, they literally take what belongs to that community and sell it elsewhere. Their extraction operations can interfere with the water source’s capacity to renew itself to sustain that community. Bottling water burdens those source communities and also threatens the environment as a whole; plastic water bottles are energy intensive to make and contribute to the planet’s growing plastic waste problem.

The goal of Nursery the brand is not to provide moms with what’s best – it’s to make  a profit. We must see past the absurd marketing ploys. We cannot allow corporations to usurp our public water supply while contributing to the destruction of the environment and the viability of a safe, affordable and sustainable future all.

July 1st, 2013

Watch a TV Journalist Debunk Nestlé’s Water Rhetoric

By Briana Kerensky

Working to expose the truth about Nestlé’s dangerous and unethical bottled water sales sometimes feels like trying to storm a castle. Nestlé, the largest purveyor of bottled water in the world, hides their efforts to privatize public water sources behind walls of powerful marketing schemes. They don’t sell water; they sell a lifestyle of “health” and “wellness.” Nestlé tries to pass its product off as “Pure Life,” as their most popular brand’s name suggests. So how are smart consumers supposed to fight against “Pure Life?”

Well last week, Nestlé’s castle started to show some cracks. In a great segment on Russia Today’s “Breaking the Set,” host Abby Martin responded to a video message from the corporation in which they tried to defend their water-grabbing tendencies. In the video, a Nestlé spokesperson claims that the corporation’s top priorities are consumers, the environment and the human right to water.

The truth is, as Martin makes clear, that Nestlé’s only real priority is padding its bottom line. In the “Breaking the Set” segment, which you can watch below, the reporter refutes the corporation’s statements, pointing out that consumers are wasting money on a product that costs thousands of times more than tap water from their faucet, even though almost half of bottled water comes from municipal water systems; Nestlé continues to tap ground water sources during times of drought. While Nestlé is currently promoting the human right to water through marketing schemes, this only came about after public backlash that ensued when Chairman and former CEO Peter Brabeck went on record saying that water is neither a public nor a human right.

Read the full article…

May 8th, 2013

Nestlé Flexes Its Muscle With Political Contributions

By Ben King Bottled Water at Grand Canyon

It’s no secret that big businesses try to influence the political environment and government through lobbying, PAC money and plying elected officials with campaign contributions. After reviewing contributions made by Nestlé Waters, it seems that the company is no stranger to this strategy. 

From Michigan to Florida, Nestlé has been very generous with contributions to members of Congress whose districts include springs and other water sources or bottling facilities. 

In 2007, Nestlé gave thousands in campaign contributions to Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels [R], who supported the Great Lakes Compact, a legal agreement among states in the Great Lakes region governing management of the local water supply. The Compact included a loophole that exempted the bottled water industry from following its water withdrawal regulations. Nestlé also received $850,000 in property tax credits from the state for a bottled water facility built in Greenwood, Indiana during his term.

In 2004 and 2008, Nestlé gave big contributions to New York State Senator Carl Marcellino [R], a vociferous opponent of a new bottle deposit bill which would have imposed fees for certain plastic bottles, including those for bottled water, to encourage recycling. Marcellino called the bill a “money grab” out of the pockets of beverage makers.

But it seems that there’s nowhere that Nestlé has spent more money than in the state of Maine. 

As Food & Water Watch blogged last month, Nestlé is trying to enter into a new 25-to 45-year contract with the Fryeburg Water Company, which has been supplying the company with water since 1997. Though Nestlé claims the agreement will benefit the public by generating substantial revenue, there is no certainty that this plan would actually keep water rates down. The State Public Utility Commission is currently reviewing the contract. 

In this contentious environment, Nestlé, its employees and lobbyists have spent nearly $650,000 on campaign contributions and support in the state of Maine. Notably, they spent $218,000 to defeat a state bottled water tax in 2004 and 2005, and another $106,000 to help repeal a state beverage tax in 2008. They’ve also given to dozens of candidates and PACs across the state, from Aroostook County to Portland. Among these legislators are more than a few representing districts where Nestlé’s springs and bottling operations are located, including those in Denmark, Fryeburg, Kingfeld and Poland.

But Nestlé’s influence on state government doesn’t end there. One member of the State Public Utility Commission – the very body deciding whether to allow Nestlé’s new contract – has already recused himself from that decision because of his ties to the company, and the two remaining commission members also have documented ties to the corporation. Maybe that’s not surprising though – two of the commissioners were appointed by Governor Paul LePage [R], the third by former Governor John Baldacci [D]; both candidates received campaign contributions from Nestlé.

Residents of Maine, and all states for that matter, deserves public servants who make decisions based on what’s best for their constituents, not their corporate donors. Communities need to stand up to protect one of their most precious resources–their water–from being subject to corporate takeover. 

Ben King is a Food & Water Watch spring water research and policy intern and a Master of Public Policy student at Georgetown University.  


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April 22nd, 2013

Raise a Glass of (Tap Water) to Earth Today

By Kate Fried Bottled Water at Grand Canyon

When the organization you work for is dedicated to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water and good food, every day feels like Earth Day. But today is actually Earth Day, a time to show Mother Earth a little love. Forget flowers and cards; this year, we’re marking the occasion by celebrating the achievements of the schools participating in our first ever Tap-a-palooza contest, in which we challenged colleges across the U.S. to compete with one another to reduce their bottled water consumption. Think March Madness, but with reusable water bottles instead of basketballs and well-hydrated college students in place of really tall people (although we imagine there may be some overlap there). 

The contest first launched in March on World Water Day, and since then, over three-dozen schools have been using our new app Tap Buddy to track their progress. We’re still tallying the pledges, but when they’ve all been counted, the victor will win $1,500 to put towards public water infrastructure improvements on their campus, such as a hydration station, drinking fountain retrofits or reusable bottles for students. 

Feeling inspired? You too can reduce your bottled water consumption with the help of Tap Buddy, even if your college days are but a fond, hazy memory. Download Tap Buddy to your iPhone or Android and use it to find water fountains near you and record the location of water fountains for yourself and others. You remember water fountains, right? 

Sure, they’ve fallen out of popularity due to the rise of the bottled water industry and the decline in federal funding for community water systems, but with the help of Tap Buddy, we think they’re poised to make a comeback. 

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April 5th, 2013

How to Crash a Nestlé Waters Press Conference

By: Alison K. Grass Bottled Water at Grand Canyon

Did you hear the news? Yesterday I attended a media briefing where Nestlé Waters Chairman Kim Jeffery spoke. It was so nice to finally put a face to a name!

It was quite clear from the beginning that Mr. Jeffery knows about Food & Water Watch and our Take Back the Tap campaign, which encourages consumers to choose tap water over bottled. He repeatedly informed the audience that our organization is one of the two national advocacy groups involved in the movement against bottled water. Thanks for the shout-out, Kim!  

When I had the opportunity, I pointed out to Mr. Jeffery and the audience that the rosy picture he painted about Nestlé Waters’ business may not reflect what is actually going on with his company. Over the past five years, Nestlé Waters’ total sales declined 31 percent—28 percent in North America, and 51 percent in Europe. In that time, other regions of the world, which the company calls “emerging markets,” experienced a 73 percent increase in sales for Nestlé Waters.
Read the full article…

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