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Blog Posts: Bottled water

July 20th, 2015

Congress’s Handout to the Bottled Water Industry

By Elizabeth Schuster

During the Congressional appropriations process it is not uncommon for members to include legislative giveaways to corporate interests such as Big Ag and the oil and gas industry. Now it’s the bottled water industry’s turn.

This year especially, the House bill to fund the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and related agencies has received a lot of attention for being the most anti-environment, anti-government funding bill to date.

With final consideration and vote on the bill indefinitely stalled due to a controversial amendment about the Confederate flag, it’s a good time to pause and consider another hidden rider included in the House version of the appropriations bill. This one is a gift wrapped giveaway to the bottled water industry.

Representative Keith Rothfus (R-PA), put forward an amendment, passed by a voice vote, which prevents the National Park Service from implementing its 2011 policy aimed to reduce and recycle plastic bottles in national parks. Recognizing the need to reduce the parks’ environmental footprint, the policy allows the option for parks to stop selling bottled water if they complete an extensive list of requirements.

Since the policy went into effect, more and more parks have banned the sale of bottled water, opting instead for water refilling stations. Parks that have adopted this policy have reported a reduction in litter from plastic bottles. This is an important step forward in preserving the environment of our public lands and moving us away from our dependency on bottled water.

The House appropriations process is at a standstill and the amendment was already approved. But we can still stop this nonsensical amendment from becoming law. First, we can ask our representatives to vote NO on the Interior-EPA bill.  Second, we can ask our Senators to keep this language out of the Senate version of the Interior-EPA bill.

We must stop giving the bottled water industry free reign to exploit our natural resources! Take action today to tell Congress to keep bottled water out of our national parks.

April 29th, 2015

California Drought: Will Governor Brown Stop the Biggest Water Abusers?

By Wenonah Hauter and Adam Scow

1504_CA-Drought-BlogThumbBy now, the whole nation is aware that its fruit and vegetable basket, California, is in the fourth year of an unprecedented drought. One NASA scientist recently projected that the state may only have roughly a year’s supply of water left in its reserves. While that number is not entirely cut and dry (pardon the pun), it’s clear that California’s water crisis is real and that solutions are late in coming. For the first time in the Golden State’s history, its Governor, Jerry Brown, has placed mandatory water restrictions on residents and municipalities.

We can all agree that individual water conservation – efficient toilets and washing machines, shorter showers and smarter landscaping – should be expanded and embedded in our culture. But restrictions on households are not enough to dig us out of our water woes. Given that residential and municipal uses account for less than fifteen percent of California’s annual water use, we must ask: who is guzzling California’s water and what should Governor Brown do to rein in these users?

Below we identify some of California’s most egregious water abusers and offer some commonsense steps for Governor Brown’s consideration.

Big Agriculture

The Almond
On the desert-like west side of the San Joaquin Valley, almond orchards stretch as far as the eye can see. But this nut empire is a relative newcomer to the neighborhood: in the past five years, skyrocketing global demand for the cash crop has enabled it to double in size and become the second-biggest water consuming crop in California. The arid climate and selenium-laced soils in this region make it a kind of madness to grow this thirsty crop here, where it takes more than double the water to grow almonds than in Northern California. Agribusiness giants like Beverly Hills-based billionaire Stewart Resnick are raking in profits from these crops, about seventy percent of which are exported overseas. The Westlands Water District, where many of these orchards are based, has pumped more than one-million acre feet of groundwater in the past two years – more water than Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco combined use in a whole year – to produce these nuts, threatening the region’s water supply, and causing the ground to sink as much as a foot per year in some places. What’s more, most of this crop is exported abroad—meaning, effectively, the water is exported along with it.

Factory Farms
Industrialized animal agriculture is notoriously water-intensive. For example, Food & Water Watch estimates that it takes 150 million gallons of water a day to maintain the dairy cows on California’s mega-dairies. That calculation does not include the large quantities of water needed to raise the feed for dairy cows in California or to move manure into storage systems; it is just the water given to cows to drink and used to wash cows and buildings. A lack of available numbers tallying the meat industry’s water use in California presents a problem as the State seeks to tackle the drought crisis.

Alfalfa
Of all crops grown in California, alfalfa uses the single largest share of agricultural water, so it clearly deserves attention. Like almonds, alfalfa is exported overseas, but is also used to feed dairy cows in California. Alfalfa is grown in some of the state’s hottest and driest areas, including the Imperial Valley, and is exported to feed livestock. Interestingly, though, acreage devoted to growing alfalfa in California is expected to shrink 11 percent this year, according to Tom Philpott and Julia Lurie in this recent Mother Jones piece, as the agricultural industry increases production of cash crops like almonds and other “pricey nuts.”

Big Oil

It’s estimated that each year, the oil industry in California uses eighty-two billion gallons of water – enough to supply both San Diego and San Francisco for a year. While agriculture dwarfs the oil industry in terms of overall water use in California – where more than one million people lack access to safe drinking water – it’s well-documented that the industry’s dirty practices like fracking, acidizing and cyclic steam injection are permanently contaminating and destroying water California can’t afford to lose. What’s more, recent reports have brought to light that this industry has been illegally injecting billions of gallons of its wastewater into protected drinking water aquifers.

Bottled Water

California is home to over 100 bottled water facilities that every year bottle millions of gallons of water for private profit. In Sacramento it is estimated that each year, the notorious multinational water hog, Nestlé, pumps around fifty million gallons of local groundwater to be bottled and sold for 1,000 times the cost of tap water. Nestlé pays just shy of $1.00 per 748 gallons of water it taps from Sacramento’s municipal water supply, then resells it for thousands of times more in environmentally damaging plastic bottles. While Food & Water Watch has always opposed bottled water, during a historic drought the moral imperative for ending this practice is crystal clear.

Solutions

As he calls on California’s 38 million residents to conserve, Governor Brown must also take bold action to rein in uses by these corporate water abusers. The Governor oversees the State Water Board, which is empowered under the California constitution to manage water for the public good. To serve that imperative, Governor Brown should quickly take the following first steps:

  1. Align California agricultural production with the realities of the State’s water supply. The State routinely promises water users, including industrial agricultural users, five times more surface water than it can provide. The State must reduce demands to meet the reality of California’s water supply.
  2. Manage groundwater as a public resource to prevent depletion. The State, albeit poorly, manages surface water for the public good, but groundwater – the State’s water savings account for future generations – is largely managed privately. The State should start with immediate, sensible restrictions on groundwater pumping. In the long-term, the State should retire from production the toxic, arid lands on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley that we do not have the water to support and compensate producers fairly for their losses.
  3. Place an immediate moratorium on fracking and the bottling of California’s water for private profit.

It’s Californians’ job to exercise their democratic rights, starting with signing this petition urging the Governor to take these bold actions. While some have suggested that people boycott almonds or make other changes in their diet, the realities of the global food system are such that corporate agribusiness will continue to abuse our water and simply export the crops we wouldn’t be buying. In other words, we can’t shop our way out of the crisis.

It’s time for Jerry Brown to exercise courageous leadership that fixes the long-time mismanagement and corporate abuse of water that threatens the future of California’s economy and agriculture. There are no easy shortcuts: the governor must govern.

Wenonah Hauter is the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, and Adam Scow is the organization’s California Director. 

March 20th, 2015

Ten Ways to Protect the Human Right to Water on World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo and Ryanne Waters

“Water is a commons, a public trust, and a human right.” — Maude Barlow

“No water, no life. No blue, no green.” – Sylvia Earle

Water is an essential common resource that nobody, and no thing, can live without. But around the world, even here in the United States, the human right to safe, clean, affordable water is under great threat; a global water crisis is looming, and in some places, has already begun.

Here are ten ways you can protect the human right to water and promote sustainable water management on World Water Day. Let’s dive in.

1. Join Tap-a-palooza! Mobilize your college campus to kick the bottled water habit and take back the tap.

The commodification of water by the beverage industry is a huge con. Research shows that in the United States, bottled water is not safer than tap water and it only serves to perpetuate our planet’s plastic bottle waste problem. When corporations like Nestlé commoditize what many consider to be a human right, communities lose out and executives fatten their wallets. If you’re a student, encourage reusable water bottle use by pledging to ban the sale of plastic water bottles on your college campus.

TBTT

2. Say “no” to international water privatization schemes; oppose fast track of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

The United States and the European Union are secretly negotiating a deal that would make it easier for the world’s biggest corporations to privatize our public water systems. And when private companies buy out public water systems, community members often experience degraded service at a higher price. Opposing fast track would make it harder for Congress to pass terrible trade deals like the TTIP.  Tell your member of Congress to oppose fast track today.

Fast Track

3. Support the campaign to stop water privatization in Lagos, Nigeria on twitter.

The city of Lagos, Nigeria is in great need of water supply and infrastructure improvements. But research shows that private ownership of municipal water systems does not benefit the community and often results in poor service at an unjust rate. 180 cities in 35 countries have fought hard to “re-municipalize” their water systems because of these failures. Lagos should not have to go down the same path. Tweet your support Tweet: I stand with Lagos, Nigeria. NO to water privatization! #OurWaterOurRight #Right2Water @followlasg @tundefashola for public water to the Lagos state government (@followlasg) and the governor (@tundefashola) by using the hashtag #OurWaterOurRight and #Right2Water.

LagosShareFB_we

4. Write to your member of Congress asking them to cosponsor the bill to ban fracking on public lands.

Did you know that our national forests and land surrounding our national parks are being fracked? Hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and associated activities such as wastewater injection can contaminate nearby rivers and streams that feed these treasured places – their vegetation and wildlife. Stopping fracking on public lands will bring us one step closer to stopping fracking, and protecting water, everywhere. Ask your member of Congress to cosponsor the bill.

PublicLands

5. Sign this emergency petition to immediately stop fracking in California.

According to NASA, California has only one year of water left. But did you hear that oil and gas industry regulators in California recently admitted that they’ve failed to protect the state’s precious water supply from toxic contamination? Regulatory systems like these are unacceptable. Join us in calling on Governor Brown to issue an immediate emergency moratorium on fracking in California.

California

6. Urge the Ohio Legislature to protect the Great Lakes from toxic algae blooms.

Industrial agriculture is threatening Lake Erie. Last summer, a huge algae bloom left half a million people in Toledo, Ohio without water. The state legislature is trying to address the problem, but their bill falls short of real, meaningful agricultural reform. Tell them to toughen up and protect the Great Lakes from factory farms!

Toledo Algae

7. Demand that authorities in Detroit restore affordable water service.

Detroit’s water is simply unaffordable, and thousands of residents have had theirs shut off as a result. The United Nations recently visited Detroit to investigate the water shut offs and found that they violate the human right to water. Protect public health and the human right to water by urging officials in Detroit to restore water service under a water affordability plan.

10532805_10203543463361262_3679927112568933826_n

8. Educate yourself and your friends on the global water crisis by reading Blue Future: Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow.

Maude Barlow is a water justice warrior. The latest in her best-selling series, Blue Future exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. It lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis and details the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Maude_Barlow

 

9. Keep an eye out for a pre-screening of the film Dear President Obama, Americans Against Fracking In One Voice from Jon Bowermaster.

In this film, Bowermaster takes a national look at the issue of fracking and the threats it poses to water quality and public health. The film profiles the victims of fracking across the U.S., checks in with experts on the topic, and takes a look at alternative energy sources gaining traction around the globe.

DearPresidentObama

10. Stay up to date on global water issues and learn how you can get involved by signing up here.

Whether by banning fracking, stopping terrible trade deals, promoting public ownership of water systems or protecting waterways from agricultural pollution, Food & Water Watch is working with communities to hold the industries that threaten the right to safe, clean, affordable water accountable.

IMG_3406

Update, March 22: Check out Maude Barlow’s World Water Day post about how to address the world water crisis.

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

Download video: MP4 format | Ogg format | WebM format

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…

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