8 CA Cities Pledge Not to use Public Funds for Bottled Water

(October 30, 2008)

Eight large California jurisdictions, including the Cities of Los Angeles, Pasadena, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Barbara, and Santa Monica, as well as the County of Marin, announced today that they have all agreed to ban the use of public funds for bottled water.

In taking this action, the eight jurisdictions, all members of Green Cities California (GCC) are aligning themselves with the U.S. Conference of Mayors which passed a resolution in June encouraging mayors to phase out city spending on bottled water and promote the safety of municipal water.

GCC's action comes on the heels of a recent report by the Environmental Working Group that shows that top-selling brands of bottled water contain almost 40 pollutants including fertilizer, industrial chemicals, bacteria and pharmaceutical residues. Bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which has less stringent standards than the Environmental Protection Agency, which monitors municipal water supplies.

"The Environmental Working Group's report highlights the fact that the quality of bottled water is often much lower than publicly funded, and much less expensive, tap water," said Carol Misseldine, Coordinator for Green Cities California. "There are also extreme environmental effects from the use of bottled water," she said, noting that the manufacture and transport of the 38 billion plastic water bottles Americans purchase annually uses more than 47 million gallons of oil.

"Bottled water is highly consumptive of water as well," said Jared Blumenfeld, Director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment. "The bottling process uses nine gallons of water to produce one gallon of bottled water. That extreme consumption in the face of growing water constraints is utterly unjustifiable."

Over 75% of plastic water bottles are discarded, adding 2 billion pounds of plastic to landfills across the U.S. And the volume of plastics in the oceans is growing rapidly, with severe impacts on marine life.

"This collaborative action not only saves public dollars, but highlights environmentally friendly alternatives to bottled water," said Dean Kubani, Director of Santa Monica's Office of Sustainability and the Environment. "Many Green Cities members are providing city employees with stainless steel re-usable water bottles, as well as bottle-less water dispensers that are connected to municipal water supplies."

On average, tap water costs U.S. taxpayers 0.2 cents per gallon roughly 750-2700 times less than bottled water on a per gallon basis, according to the EPA. This substantial price differential means cities often save money by banning the use of public funds for bottled water. For example, San Francisco departments spent $500,000 on bottled water in 2006 money that now goes to other city operations.

Numerous other cities in California and across the U.S. have banned the use of public funds for bottled water including Emeryville, Davis, Mill Valley, Chicago, Boston, Minneapolis and New York City.

The mission of Green Cities California (GCC), a collaborative effort among nine jurisdictions, is to accelerate the adoption of sustainability policies and programs through collaborative action. GCC's first collaborative campaign, launched in March 2008, was a commitment among all GCC members to purchase only 100% post-consumer recycled content paper. Upcoming campaigns will focus on local food, carbon offsets and manufacturer responsibility for solid and toxic waste. GCC's initiatives are supported by member dues, the Blackstone Ranch Institute, Full Circle Fund, and the 11th Hour Project.