Today, as the National Park Service prepares to celebrate its Centennial, and on the eve of the adoption of the latest budget bill, more than thirty members of Congress sent a letter to National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis supporting the parks going bottled water free over the objections of the industry. The letter was sent in response to a bottled water industry attempt to ban the parks from using federal funds to implement a bottled-water-free policy via a controversial appropriations bill rider.
The letter, sponsored by Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva, the ranking member of the House Committee on Natural Resources, highlights the broad base of public support for these bottled-water-free policies in national parks. To date, nearly 350,000 people and 20 organizations* have joined a coalition standing with the national parks in pushing back against bottled water industry lobbying.
“This industry chicanery must be stopped,” said Rep. Grijalva in the letter. “It is time that we, as members of Congress, renew our support for the national parks to promote access to public water by going bottled water free. On the eve of the Centennial, it’s vitally important that the preservation of our parks’ pristine environment is our top priority.”
Despite the industry’s lobbying, to date, more than 75 national parks have gone bottled water free, according to analysis by Corporate Accountability International. A study by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility showed that in most parks surveyed, disposable water bottles are the single largest source of trash that parks must pay to haul away, making up an average of almost 30 percent of parks’ solid waste. In 2012, The National Park Service Green Parks Plan set a goal of halving the amount of trash sent to the landfill. The elimination of bottled water in parks is an important step in achieving this goal.
Zion National Park’s bottled-water-free policy, for example, is a huge “sustainability success story,” according to the National Park Service. Zion has prevented 5,000 pounds of plastic from entering the waste stream and increased reusable water bottle sales by 78 percent. And today, Ft. Sumter National Monument in South Carolina announced its intention to go bottled water free.
“National parks are uniquely poised to send the strong message that water, like our parks, is not for sale,” said John Stewart, deputy campaigns director at Corporate Accountability International. “With public support at an all-time high, it’s time for all of our national parks to go bottled water free.”
The bottled water industry aggressively lobbied members of Congress for the inclusion of the appropriations bill rider. In July, the Nestlé-funded International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) lobbied Rep. Keith Rothfus; in September, the IBWA PAC gave Rep. Rothfus a $1,000 contribution. And in November, Rep. Rothfus was a featured speaker at an IBWA event where he was praised for introducing the amendment. If passed, the legislation would prohibit the National Park Service from spending any federal funds to reduce the availability of bottled water, or educate visitors about the environmental impact of bottled water.
“Bottled water corporations should not be in charge of influencing policies for our national parks,” said Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. “Rather than pander to the bottled water industry, we need to stand up for the right of our parks to protect their pristine environments and reject bottled water, much of which winds up as trash, rather than being recycled.”
The industry has used its influence to intimidate national parks for years. In 2011, Coca-Cola leveraged its financial relationship with the National Park Foundation in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to block the Grand Canyon from going bottled water free.
* The 350,000 and figure is a compilation of multiple petitions from different organizations. For a full list of organizations and signers, please contact Corporate Accountability International.
Corporate Accountability International’s Think Outside the Bottle campaign promotes, protects, and ensures public funding for our public water systems and challenges the misleading marketing of bottled water industry giants like Nestlé, Coca-Cola, and Pepsi. With public officials, faith groups, restaurants, celebrities, campuses, and individuals, the campaign organizes to support public systems by encouraging people to opt for tap over bottled water.
Food & Water Watch champions healthy food and clean water for all. We stand up to corporations that put profits before people, and advocate for a democracy that improves people’s lives and protects our environment.
John Stewart, Corporate Accountability International, (617) 695-2525
Adam Sarvana, Natural Resources Democrats, (202) 225-6065
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905