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Blog Posts: Tap water

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…

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.

May 22nd, 2013

Victory! Oregon Legislators Ask Congress to Renew America’s Water

Water victory in Oregon

Northwest Organizer, Julia DeGraw stands with Oregon Representative Dembrow after the Oregon Senate passed the Renew America’s Water Memorial.

By Julia DeGraw and Ronnette Steed

It’s been a good week for clean water lovers. On Monday, May 20, the Oregon State Legislature gave final passage to a memorial to Renew America’s Water with overwhelming bipartisan support as the Senate voted 29-0 on passage. The House previously passed House Joint Memorial 7 by a vote of 55-0.

HJM 7 calls on Congress to reinvest in our deteriorating water infrastructure and it sets an important precedent for other states to follow. The resounding endorsement of the Oregon Legislature to adequately fund our sewer and drinking water systems is something Republicans and Democrats both agree on. Updating and maintaining our public water systems creates much-needed jobs in both urban and rural communities, improves the environmental quality of our lakes, rivers and beaches and ensures clean, safe water for kids in our schools and for families across America.

HJM Chief Sponsor Representative Michael Dembrow (D-45) summed up the need for reinvestment in our water systems with this statement:

“Safe, clean water is one of the most precious public resources that we have. Across Oregon and the rest of this country, our public drinking water and wastewater systems are facing a crisis. These public water systems have provided clean, affordable water to generations, but they are falling into a state of disrepair. Congress must act now to increase investment in state revolving loan programs that assist communities with repairing and upgrading their water infrastructure, to maintain access to affordable water.”

According to a Congressional Budget Office 2010 report, federal investment in water and sewer systems has fallen 82 percent from 1977 to 2009 from about $15.6 billion per year to a mere $2.8 billion. The dismal amount money set aside by Congress also varies widely from year to year, which means municipal public utilities cannot rely on that money to plan important projects. Our public water and sewer utilities need an adequate and reliable source of funding from the federal government. With water systems and pipes built 50 to 100 years ago aging out and new rules for water quality from the EPA, it is high time to bring our public water systems into the 21st century.

Getting our water systems up to snuff and properly maintained isn’t just critical for public health and safety, but it is also good business. If Congress fills the budget gaps for our aging water infrastructure it could create over 5,000 jobs in Oregon alone. Most of those jobs would be in rural communities that need the economic boost the most.

Congress could create jobs, boost the economy, improve the environment and ensure clean safe water for the majority of Americans by passing legislation to Renew America’s water. We have a trust fund for transportation; having one for our water systems is long overdue. If Republicans and Democrats in the Oregon State Legislature can get together to support a full-fledged endorsement to fix our water systems, hopefully they can motivate Congress to do the same.

Ronnette Steed is a Food & Water Watch volunteer in Portland, Ore.

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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February 13th, 2013

The Senator’s Sip

Last night in the Republican Party’s response to President Obama’s State of the Union address, Senator Marco Rubio unintentionally added some dramatic flair to his speech when he paused to reach off-camera for a bottle of Poland Spring water. Now we have a response of our own to the “sip heard around the world.”

 

Dear Senator Rubio, 

First, what an epic sip! When thirst strikes, Senator Rubio, it strikes regardless of where you are or what you’re doing. In this case it struck a few feet too many to your left during your formal response to the State of the Union. Yikes.

While we’re sure you weren’t intentionally plugging Poland Spring, we’d like to offer a few suggestions for your next on-camera appearance: Read the full article…

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November 1st, 2012

New Lawsuit, But Dubious Marketing Claims Nothing New for Nestlé

By Wenonah Hauter

Food & Water Watch is working to Keep Nestlé out of the GorgeAh, Nestlé, you’ve done it again. First, in the 1970s, campaigners boycotted you, charging that you violated World Health Organization guidelines on advertising and duped mothers (especially, and most tragically, in developing countries) into thinking infant formula was better than breast milk. Then Elisabeth Badinter, the heiress to Publicis (your PR firm that has long been pushing formula) wrote a book about how breastfeeding is bad for feminism. Now, you’re getting sued—again—for misleading labels.

A Chicago-based firm is suing Nestlé Waters for supplying them with purified municipal tap water instead of the “100 % Natural Spring Water” it uses in the marketing materials for it’s Ice Mountain Water brand (which apparently does not apply to the five-gallon jugs of Ice Mountain Water, a fact which is hidden in a document on Nestlé’s Web site, Forbes reports.) Forbes also reports that several years ago, Nestlé Waters settled a lawsuit over its Poland Springs brand, which was marketed as coming from a deep underground source when in fact it came from a well encircled by a parking lot.

It seems like a pattern, Nestlé.

You so badly want to corner the market on nourishment for all ages—whether it’s bottling our communities’ water and selling it back to us for an exorbitant profit, or using healthcare facilities to market your infant formulas to exhausted or uninformed new mothers. And your latest effort? Gerber Pure bottled water, which you are marketing as “made for mixing (infant formula and/or cereal).” Not only should you buy formula—you should also buy our bottled water to mix it with!

Nestlé’s strategy for growing profits is clear with its newest legion of Popularly Positioned Products (PPPs). Earlier this year, we blogged about Nestlé boasting in its investor materials that it is including its Pure Life brand (which is really filtered tap water) and its infant formula as products they are positioning in developing markets: PPPs target less affluent consumers in emerging markets (UN/World Bank definition – those with an annual purchasing power parity between US$ 3,000 and 22,000 per-capita) as well as low food spenders in developed economies. Together, they represent some 50 % of the world’s population. Hence, PPPs target the biggest and fastest growing consumer base in emerging markets as well as important sub-groups in developed markets.” (Soon after the blog was published, they made the report accessible only via login.)

You can see how that strategy to expand its consumer base would sound good to Nestlé’s investors. But wait a minute—the company is blatantly marketing its products like bottled tap water and infant formula to the people who can least afford them?

Perhaps they have done their market research. Only 35 percent of women living below the poverty level in the United States reported breastfeeding at six months compared with 53 percent of women at the highest income level. And 31 percent of women living in poverty supplemented with infant formula within two days of giving birth compared to only 21 percent of women at the highest income levels.

Nestlé is still using dishonest claims to position their products as better than tap (or breast). That’s the way you’re going to get repeat customers, Nestlé—hoodwink exhausted new mothers, who are seeking the best possible ways to start off their little ones, into thinking that your product is better than much less expensive and more sustainable alternatives.

Mothers deserve better than the dishonest marketing claims they are barraged by everyday from Nestlé. Never has there been a more appropriate saying than Buyer Beware when it comes to the products Nestlé pushes and the nourishment of our families.

October 17th, 2012

Nestlé’s Pursuit of Public Water Has Landed Them In a Lawsuit, Again

By: Alison K. Grass Bottled Water at Grand Canyon

The multinational bottled water company Nestlé Waters is no stranger to legal battles. For years, communities around the U.S. have found themselves in court fighting the company for control over their community water resources. Nestlé has also been sued for using deceptive marketing practices. In 2003, several class action lawsuits were filed against Nestlé because consumers found claims that its Poland Spring brand water was “found deep in the woods of Maine” and “exceptionally well protected by nature” to be misleading. Once again, Nestlé’s pursuit of public water has landed the company in hot water.

For almost five years, Chicago Faucet Shoppes, a faucet and toilet repair parts store, bought 5-gallon jugs of Nestlé’s Ice Mountain brand water for their office. Like many consumers, the company was under the impression that it was purchasing spring water, but recently learned that the water actually came from municipal supplies. After discovering the truth, Chicago Faucet filed a lawsuit against Nestlé for misleading practices.

As explained in a Law360 article (subscription required), “Chicago Faucet is suing on behalf of all persons in Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota and Missouri who purchased the 5-gallon Ice Mountain bottles, claiming unjust enrichment and deceptive trade practices under the Illinois Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and seeking actual and punitive damages, an injunction mandating disclosure and restitution.”

Within the past few years, many bottled water companies have shifted their advertising messages in ways that obscure the source of their water. For instance, Nestlé promotes its Pure Life brand, which is primarily sourced from municipal supplies, as a necessity for a healthy lifestyle. This also helps the company avoid controversy and potential lawsuits over the legitimacy of its water source.

For these reasons and more, it’s clear that consumers should ditch the bottle, take advantage of the free, healthy water flowing from the faucet and pledge to take back the tap. After all, water belongs to the public and should be preserved for all.

 

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October 10th, 2012

Keep Consumer Confidence in Our Water Quality Reports

By Kate Fried and Elizabeth Schuster

 The United States has some of the cleanest, safest drinking water in the world, thanks in part to our government’s rigorous testing standards. In fact, consumer standards are actually more stringent for the quality and safety of tap water than that of bottled water. Everyone has a right to be informed about what is in their tap water, but as crazy as it sounds, the federal government may actually be about to make that a little more difficult. 

But before you throw up your hands and reached for the bottle, take heart. As always, Food & Water Watch has your back. 

Read the full article…

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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 30th, 2012

Trouble Brewing in Mexico City’s Water System

By Roxanne Darrow

Mexico City, the second largest city in the Western Hemisphere with 19.3 million inhabitants, is having major water problems. Over the past month, Mexico City’s water authority, Conagua, has been delivering water to consumers that has a foul odor and taste and activists there are questioning Conagua’s transparency in the matter.

The source of the problem is in the Valle de Bravo dam, which feeds into the Lerma-Cutzamala system that provides 30 percent of the water to Mexico City inhabitants.  

The Valle de Bravo dam has been infested with algae for several weeks, which means there is a large quantity of organic matter that provides food for bacteria, viruses and parasites to multiply and contaminate the water. Not only have citizens suffered from an unusual increase of intestinal illnesses from drinking contaminated water, they may also be at risk for liver damage if they continue to drink contaminated water over the long term.  

Conagua needs to act quickly to provide safe water to citizens while they remove algae from the dam, but Conagua argues their treatment system produces clean and safe water and that no epidemics have broken out. Bad smelling and poor tasting water is due to dirty water tanks at the municipal and consumer level, explain Conagua authorities.

However, Mexico City water activists call Conagua’s water safety into question and doubt the accuracy of water quality and treatment information available to the public. Food & Water Watch’s Claudia Campero works with the Coalition of Mexican Organizations for the Right to Water (COMDA) and consulted with a gastroenterology specialist who found an atypical increase of gastrointestinal illnesses in the part of Mexico City where most of the Valle de Bravo dam water ends up. Worse yet, Conagua’s activated carbon and chlorine treatment methods for last month’s algae infestation are similar to treatment methods that have been shown to produce carcinogenic chemicals.

Conagua needs to be transparent about their water treatment methodology and disclose the result of all their water samplings. How are they treating the water for human feces contamination and how effective has this been?

Access to clean water is a human right. Conagua is responsible for providing safe and clean water to Mexico City citizens.

COMDA calls for Mexican authorities to:

  1. Abide by their constitutional obligations.
  2. Provide continuous and accessible information about water quality.
  3. Provide free, safe water to vulnerable populations while fixing the polluted water distribution system.

Learn more about our global water justice work here.

Roxanne Darrow is a summer intern with the Food & Water Watch International Policy Program. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a BA in International Development Studies.

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