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Blog Posts: Bottled water

July 31st, 2012

The Olympics, London Taking Back the Tap

By Hannah Scott

Click here to learn more about Take Back the Tap.

One of Coca-Cola’s lead representatives to the Olympics was quoted as laughing while saying that he hopes for a hot a sunny summer with “lots of thirsty people.” But spectators at the Summer Olympics will not have to rely on Coca-Cola’s Abbey Well for their hydration needs, as there is another water resource available to consumers: tap water.

It began in 2008 when Tom Brake, an Olympics spokesperson and London Member of Parliament, actively worked to ensure that the Olympic organizers would provide tap water to spectators and athletes. “Everyone wants the 2012 Games to be the most sustainable on record. That must mean free non-bottled water for all visitors to the Games,” he said. That same year, Olympic organizers confirmed that tap water would be available to spectators and athletes of the Games.

London, however, is not the first city to provide attendees of Olympic Events free tap water. When Vancouver hosted the Winter Olympics in 2010, spectators were encouraged to enjoy tap water instead of purchasing bottled water.  (We heard a little rumor that Coca-Cola was upset about having to compete with tap water, despite claiming they did not see tap water as competition.) 

Although spectators will not be permitted to bring in bottles of liquid exceeding 100 mL (about 3.4 fluid ounces), or “excessive food,” due to security regulations, an empty reusable water bottle will be allowed. So instead of having to waste £1.60 (roughly $2.50) on a bottle of water, spectators can enjoy tap water from designated filling stations. 

We encourage all spectators and athletes to take advantage of the free water, and to bring their reusable water bottles to take back the tap in London. 

Hannah Scott is a Food & Water Watch summer water research and policy intern and a senior at American University.

July 27th, 2012

Abbey Well, Coca-Cola’s Latest Bluewashing Venture

By Hannah Scott

Take Back the Tap for safe, affordable hydration during the Olympics.

Take Back the Tap for safe, affordable hydration during the Olympics.

Ah, the Summer Olympic Games: a favorite viewing pastime for sports lovers across the globe. It’s also an ideal opportunity for sponsors to establish brand loyalty with the spectators. Not surprisingly, major water bottling corporations are jumping at the chance to push their bluewashing, water-for-profit agenda.

In fact Coca-Cola, the parent company of the bottled water brand Dasani, plans on using this year’s games to attract new customers in the United Kingdom (they were also a very visible presence at the recent UN Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro). In 2004, Coca-Cola failed to enter the UK market when local newspapers revealed that Dasani is merely “purified” tap water, much to the outrage of customers. Making matters worse, Coca-Cola ultimately had to pull Dasani from shelves the same year it debuted after carcinogenic bromates were found contaminating the brand.

Four years later, Coca-Cola purchased Abbey Well, a small, locally-owned bottled water company that sells spring water. In doing so, Coca-Cola did not stick with the Dasani brand name, as it would certainly have reminded customers of the train wreck that ensued in 2004. Instead, they branded it under the Schweppes label, although the new Olympic design downplays that fact.

Due to the strict and controversial brand exclusivity rules that prohibit non-sponsor advertisement, Abbey Well will be the sole bottled water provider at Olympic events for both spectators and athletes. Moreover, a brand new design of Abbey Well has been crafted especially for the Olympics and is meant to instill a sense of “national pride.” But this doesn’t detract from the fact that big bottling companies often take water from municipal or groundwater sources that local residents depend on for drinking, sanitation, recreation and more.

Since athletes must drink a lot of water to stay hydrated, we encourage them to take back the tap by forgoing bottled water and drinking tap water in refillable water bottles. After all, when it comes to fostering a healthy environment and a healthy you, tap water medals over bottled every single time.

Hannah Scott is a Food & Water Watch summer water research and policy intern and a senior at American University. 

July 5th, 2012

Tasty, Affordable Hydration Requires no Special Coupons

By Kate Fried

The dollars you drop at the grocery store have a direct impact on your health and the health of the planet. But try to tell that to Nestlé Pure Life, a brand of bottled water sourced from municipal tap water supplies, which recently launched its “2012 Hydration Movement.” In choosing tap water (rather than bottled tap water) you reject the commodification of a vital, increasingly limited, natural resource (and the extra expense) and choose water that hasn’t been left to languish for months or even years in chemical-leaching plastic bottles.

Nestlé’s latest attempts to put a positive spin on its products by marketing bottled water as the obvious replacement for soda inspired the following satire. Read this blog in your best late-night television infomercial voice. Remember that here at Food & Water Watch, we are all for replacing bad habits with healthy ones; but bottled water is not the key to a healthier planet or a healthier you.

Read the full article…

May 22nd, 2012

Green Water Sounds Bad, Right? Toms River Has Seen Much Worse

By Kate Fried

It sounds like a story ripped from the pages of a dystopian novel, but the horrors that the residents of Toms River (formerly called Dover Township), New Jersey have experienced thanks to their private water providers are all too real.

In the 1990’s, health officials identified a terrible development among children in Toms River: a high rate of certain types of cancer. After a massive five-year study, state and federal investigators linked this horrific trend to contamination of the area’s drinking water system. Five days before the study was released, United Water Toms River (a local subsidiary of French multinational Suez Environnement) and two chemical companies agreed to make undisclosed multimillion-dollar payments to 69 families of children with cancer. Several months later, they reached another monetary settlement with dozens of other families. In total, United Water paid $12 million, after insurance reimbursements, to settle the $800 million claims for wrongful death and injury.

Over the years Toms River’s water woes persisted, particularly when United Water was fined $64,000 for failing to notify the state and the public when the water contained high levels of radioactive contaminants.

Fast-forward to the present day, and some residents of Toms River have a new problem: their drinking water has turned green. This time the responsible entity is a different private water company—New Jersey American Water. The company has identified the source of the problem—high iron levels—and claims the water is perfectly safe. But given the private water industry’s track record, it’s easy to see why some residents are still leery

Even if the green water really poses no hazards, this further illustrates how communities often receive very bad services from private water providers. Residents of Toms River have suffered through enough without having to rely on pricey bottled water for their basic hydration and sanitation needs. Nor we can we entirely trust bottled water to be any safer than Toms River’s current supply since it is often subjected to less stringent testing than municipal water.

It’s beyond time we eliminated the gap between the haves and the have-nots when it comes to accessing water. Since many communities lack the means to provide safe, clean, affordable tap water to their residents, we must look to federal leaders to step up and fill this void.

Establishing a consistent source of federal funding for community water systems is our best bet in achieving that goal. Otherwise, more communities could be stuck with the consequences and inconsistencies of privatized water, as Toms Rivers is.

May 7th, 2012

A Watered-Down Education

By Wenonah Hauter 

The Take Back the Tap Curriculum is designed to teach kids about the importance of protecting our most essential public resource: water.

Joe Camel. Ronald McDonald. Tony the Tiger. Spuds McKenzie. Kid-friendly advertising tricks by corporations seeking to lure young consumers clutter the annals of marketing history.

While some of these efforts are more insidious than others, they share a common trait. In each case, advertisers were trying to hook new consumers early to cultivate a sense of brand loyalty to be exploited for years to come. With the advent of programs ostensibly designed to teach kids about water issues, bottled water companies are getting in on the action. Their tactics flow through an institution that few kids can escape — the classroom.

The best example of this is Project WET. This non-profit organization claims to educate children and parents about the importance of preserving global water resources. According to its website, “sustainable water management is crucial to secure social and economic stability, as well as a healthy environment.”

That’s certainly true. But Nestlé Waters North America, the organization’s main sponsor, is the last entity that should be empowered to educate the public about responsible water use. When you consider the bottled water behemoth ‘s track record of hogging global water supplies and profiting from them, Project WET’s supposed mission is a slap in the face to any community that has had its water muscled away by Nestlé. Read the full article…

May 4th, 2012

REVIEW: Last Call at the Oasis

By Walker Foley

Last Call at the Oasis

The artwork for Last Call at the Oasis

Drought, famine, disease and war – are these the buzz words of our nightmares, distanced from public perception by vast oceans and foreign lands? Or are they the social products of the rapidly dwindling resource vital to life on Earth?

In many areas of the U.S., the concept of water shortages may seem as foreign as excavating icebergs for potable product. Turn on your tap after all, and the water gods will make it rain. But for those not so blessed, shrinking water supplies in the American Southwest and elsewhere on the globe serve a painful lesson: the tap is running dry.

Jessica Yu’s new film, Last Call at the Oasis, sounds the alarm on dwindling global water resources, and invites Americans to bridge the distance between them and their water.

Through the opening credits water waltzes seductively, teasing the audience with a glittering, circus-spectacle. The circus must end though, and the film must tell its dark tale.

When the Lights Go Out

“Water,” Erin Brockovich begins, “is everything. The single most necessary element for any of us to sustain, and live, and thrive is water.” Speaking of water’s importance, Brockovich draws from her father’s wisdom who warned her, “… in my lifetime that we would see water become more valuable than oil, he said, because there will be so little of it.”

There’s nothing fanciful about the predictions of Brockovich’s childhood memories – the evidence is everywhere. Last Call at the Oasis begins by examining the consequences for the Southwest as climate change, water mismanagement and population growth threaten the long-term viability of the entire region. Having over-tapped the Colorado River, farms are unable to get water for irrigation, while cities struggle to find an electrical alternative to the failing Hoover Dam. Despite the slowdown in agriculture and energy, development (and population) escalates. Read the full article…

April 27th, 2012

Creating a Secure Water Future: Looking Beyond Personal Change

By Sam Law

Take Back the Tap poster by Phoebe Konig

This is the second of two blogs  from Take Back the Tap Coordinators in honor of Earth Week. Food & Water Watch is working with 62 active Take Back the Tap campaigns on college campuses across the country. Emory University, Carleton College, American University, and Reed College have passed resolutions banning or significantly reducing bottled water usage on their campuses. Over the past two years, Food & Water Watch has trained over 100 student leaders on how to run successful Take Back the Tap campaigns.

College students, like many people, are incredibly involved in their own lives. This presents two unique challenges for organizing on campus around environmental justice issues. The first problem, so prevalent in our culture, is apathy. Whether a defense mechanism to protect individuals from the realization that people have very little power in this country when they organize against the moneyed interests of transnational corporations, or pure laziness is hard to tell. It’s likely a combination of the two. The second problem this egotism presents is that people, when they do get involved, so often want to focus on personal change such as turning out light switches, buying sustainable products or reducing waste.

Read the full article…

April 26th, 2012

Light at the End of the Bottle

From left to right: Chloe Lyon, Triana Tello and Meagan Lyle are Taking Back the Tap at American University.

By Meagan Lyle

This is the first of two blogs from Take Back the Tap Coordinators in honor of Earth Week. Food & Water Watch is working with 62 active Take Back the Tap campaigns on college campuses across the country. Emory University, Carleton College, American University, and Reed College have passed resolutions banning or significantly reducing bottled water usage on their campuses. Over the past two years, Food & Water Watch has trained over 100 student leaders on how to run successful Take Back the Tap campaigns.

You know that campaigning is taking over your life, when you find it hard not to glare at strangers you see buying bottled water, when every paper you write is about water privatization or green and blue washing, and when you subconsciously start typing Take Back the Tap in the middle of an unrelated homework assignment. While it is exhausting to want positive change in the world because even the smallest shift requires much time and effort, every single ounce of energy we invest in organizing our campaigns becomes worth it at the sight of victory.

The small Take Back the Tap team at American University has worked relentlessly to see tangible change in the blind consumption of bottled water on campus. Similar to other campuses, we want people to see through the bluewash of advertising that claims bottle water is safer than tap water. We aspire to inform students and faculty that every building on campus provides free, safe, regulated tap water. Yet, even after the documentaries, tabling, panel discussions, taste tests, bottled water art displays people continued to succumb to the convenience of bottled water. Discouraged by the lack of change from our efforts, we hit a crossroads. Read the full article…

April 21st, 2012

Bottled Water Is a Bad Deal On Earth Day–Or On Any Day

On Earth Day, help us take back the tap.

Celebrate Earth Day with Food & Water Watch

Bottled water is a bad deal.

The industry claims it’s better than tap water, but in reality, bottled water is held to lower standards than tap water in the United States, and is much more expensive. Actually, almost half the time, it is tap water, bottled in factories across the country, then shipped (with a high carbon footprint) to you. While the communities around bottling facilities are drained of their most essential resource, you’re paying a premium for something you can get virtually for free from your tap at home.

With your help, the movement against bottled water is growing. We are working with college campuses, businesses and families that are making the switch back to tap water.

In honor of Earth Day, we’re asking you to sign the Take Back the Tap pledge and promise not to use bottled water. It’s easy to make the switch. Just start drinking tap water at home. If the water in your home doesn’t taste great, invest in a filtered pitcher or a filter for your faucet — it’ll cost much less than bottled water, and it’ll taste great. When you’re out and about, carry a reusable water bottle with you, and fill it while you’re on the go.

Already bottled water-free? That’s great! Let us know you’re with us: take the pledge. Show the world you mean it with a Take Back the Tap reusable bottle.

If you want to know more about the quality of your tap water, here’s an Earth Day gift to you: our Take Back the Tap Guide to Safe Tap Water.

From all of us at Food & Water Watch, to all of our readers and our supporters, happy Earth Day.

February 27th, 2012

Soaking the Customer

By Wenonah Hauter

Ruby Williams, a 78-year-old Aqua Pennsylvania customer, got stuck with a $40,000 water bill because of a serious leak in the pipes under her home in Bristol Township, Pennsylvania. After her situation garnered national media attention, the private company agreed to reduce her bill to a few hundred dollars.

Likewise, the Price family of Stallings, North Carolina recently had their sewage service cut off by Aqua North Carolina despite having paid an overdue bill. The company demanded $1,000 to restore it — hundreds of dollars more than the actual cost to do the work. Again, thanks to bad publicity and public outrage, Aqua backed down.

It’s not just American consumers that feel the pinch as our municipal water systems change from public to private hands — and it’s not just that Aqua America is one bad actor, either. Private interests worldwide increasingly control our water. Too often, customers are getting a raw deal.

Read the full article…

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