bottled water | Food & Water Watch - Part 3
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Blog Posts: Bottled water

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…

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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…

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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.

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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…

November 14th, 2011

Is it Coca-Cola’s Grand Canyon or Ours?

Bottled Water at Grand CanyonBy Rich Bindell

Anyone lucky enough to see the Grand Canyon should understand why Grand Canyon National Park officials wanted to institute a ban on the sale of bottled water in the park. Visitors to the park should be able to see the Canyon in its pristine condition, not littered with plastic bottles. But National Parks Service Director Jon Jarvis blocked the ban right before it took effect, and shortly after Coca-Cola made inquires about the ban. Since Coca-Cola is a major donor to the National Parks Foundation, contributing about $13 million in total to the Foundation and the Parks, we have to ask: how much influence should a corporate donor have on the operations decisions of an entity like National Parks Service?

Stephen P. Martin, a Grand Canyon park official, developed the ban because 30 percent of park waste is from plastic bottles. In a place like a national park, a preserved location, protected from the usual scars (like garbage) left by human beings, this seems like a reasonable course of action to take. There’s really no reason to object to any attempt to keep a national park free from excess waste.

But, Coca-Cola sells its Dasani brand of bottled water to park visitors. The park’s ban would include providing water stations for reusable bottles, but Coke would, of course, prefer people buy their product.

When asked about the ban, Susan Stribling, a Coca-Cola spokeswoman, exposed a serious lack of understanding when it comes to waste and recycling. According to Stribling, Coca-Cola’s strategy isn’t to try to eliminate waste before it’s created, but to provide recycling bins instead. She offered this ridiculous and preposterous response: Read the full article…

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October 19th, 2011

Nestle Wants to Sell US Bottled Water?

Tap Water VS Bottled Water

Nestlé's sales account managers should be more careful about their potential client list.

By Rich Bindell

Talk about an overly optimistic sales strategy.

No fewer than six Food & Water Watch staff members received emails from a salesman with a Nestle affiliated bottled water brand over the past few weeks, asking if we’d be interested in purchasing their bottled water and various products and services for our office.

Clearly, this salesperson did not do his homework. If he had, he would have figured out pretty quickly what we think about bottled water.

After several emails around the office discussing this ill-conceived sales maneuver, I decided to respond…

Dear Bottled Water Salesperson, Read the full article…

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October 12th, 2011

Photo of the Day: Whole Foods Suggests Brewing Coffee with Bottled Water

Whole Foods Coffee Bean Drama

Whole Foods recommends using bottled water when you brew their coffee.

By Darcey Rakestraw

It’s a common practice for brands to cross-market its products on labels, but I have to say this is a blunder: Whole Foods suggests on its “365 Brand” coffee label that people brew it using its 365 Brand bottled water. (Thanks to our office manager Ben Schumin for the pic.)

Coming from a company that has a “green mission”—during a time of economic crisis, no less—this seems particularly tone deaf. No doubt it will give Whole Foods naysayers more fodder for calling it Whole Paycheck, since bottled water is thousands of times more expensive than tap water. It also creates mountains of garbage, with less than 25 percent of plastic bottles getting recycled. Plus it is a waste of fossil fuels in production and transport, using the equivalent of 32 and 54 million barrels of oil in 2007—enough to fuel about 1.5 million cars for a year.

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