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Should state employees be drinking bottled water? On your dime?

Monday, May 3, 2010

You may have kicked the bottled water habit, but has your state government?

EWG has exposed the many downsides of bottled water, from low quality to high costs, piles of plastic waste to inadequate regulation. The new Story of Bottled Water video sums up the saga nicely.

The message hasn't reached most of our state capitols Of all the things they could be funding (my kids' education, for example), states are spending taxpayer dollars on bottled water (yes, even though they're responsible for your public drinking water infrastructure!) - and not just for those understandable emergency situations or parts of the state where the water isn't drinkable.

According to an analysis by EWG partner Corporate Accountability International (CAI), states are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on bottled drinking water for state employees (can you say: state budget crisis?). Here's an idea: Use the money for our public water systems Many public water systems are in desperate need of costly upgrades - which states can't afford. It would make good sense to cut bottled water expenditures and spend it on unfunded infrastructure upgrades, instead.

While the amount being spent on bottled water isn't enough to fill states' (huge) infrastructure funding gaps, savings of any kind are important for state budgets these days (especially those with nothing but positive outcomes), and any additional funding for our failing water systems is welcome.

Plus, states shouldn't send the message that their tap water isn't good enough for state employees to drink. Bottled water companies already create that misperception to their benefit - and the detriment of tap water, which has an image problem.

Some local governments are getting off the bottle Three states (Illinois, New York, and Virginia) and more than 100 cities have taken steps to cut spending on bottled water. For example, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom passed an executive order that phases out city spending on bottled water and invests the recouped funds in the city's public water system. As a result, the city is saving $500,000 a year simply by not buying bottled water. As the CAI report notes,

"...spending taxpayer money on bottled water is an unnecessary expense that sends the wrong message about the importance of the public water systems cities are entrusted to maintain."

So it's not just about ditching the silly bottled water, it's about the very serious job of maintaining the nation's drinking water systems, a lot of which are in bad shape.

New York has made the most progress by directing state agencies to phase out the purchase and use of single-serve and "large format" bottles. Governor David A. Patterson states his reasoning for taking action - which EWG applauds:

"Taxpayers have spent billions of dollars to ensure that we have clean drinking water supplies. If we are going to make such significant investments, we should reap the benefits and use that water."

Want to know more? Read Corporate Accountbiity's Getting States Off the Bottle report. If you live in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania or Vermont, it'll tell you who's supplying the bottled water, what state agencies are buying it, and what the state could be doing instead.

And by all means, kick the bottled water habit if you haven't already. It's probably one of the easier vices to drop, right?

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