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35 California cities buck bottled water; Mayors urge governor to follow suit

For Immediate Release:
September 7, 2011

Adam Macon, 510-417-5104

OAKLAND, CA – Today mayors across California, including the mayors of Oakland, Davis, and Santa Rosa, announced their commitment to go bottled water free and their support for the Governor to follow suit. With this announcement, 35 cities across the state are now bottled water free. These cities were also joined by 30 establishments including restaurants Oliveto and Sidebar in Oakland. The announcement is part of a statewide initiative to encourage Governor Brown to cut state spending on bottled water and reinvest in California’s public water systems.

Governor Brown has raised concerns about water bottling since his time as attorney general, namely because of its environmental impacts and contribution to climate change. Yet under his administration the state continues to spend taxpayer dollars on bottled water. 

"In Oakland and the cities stepping forward today, we take great pride in the quality of our tap water. It’s the backbone of public health and our economy. We know the Governor, as a former mayor, shares our conviction. We hope our actions to cut bottled water from city budgets will act as an impetus for Governor Brown and the legislature to follow suit. It’s a first critical step in guaranteeing the state’s water systems receive the attention and resources they need for generations to come,” said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Public officials, local businesses and public interest organizations say this spending sends the wrong message about the tap – which faces a $23 billion annual investment gap nationally. Not only does the Bay area’s tap water rank very well nationally in terms of quality, U.S. tap water is more highly regulated than its counterpart in the bottle. Yet taxpayer dollars during troubled economic times are being squandered on the poster child for conspicuous consumption – bottled water. 

“City governments today are asserting that scarce public dollars should be spent on projects that provide vital public services and grow the economy at large, not just the bottom line for a handful of private corporations,” said Think Outside the Bottle Director Kristin Urquiza of Boston-based Corporate Accountability International – the organization leading the state initiative. “To this end, investment in public water is one of the wisest investments the state can make.”

Every dollar spent on public water systems adds $9 to the national economy and creates needed green jobs. In contrast, bottled water is a drain. For example, each year cities and states pay at least $42 million to dispose of plastic water bottles. That’s why more than 140 mayors across the U.S. and five governors had already taken similar steps prior to today’s announcement. 

State and local governments have instead invested in bottled water alternatives, such as reusable water bottles, refurbished water fountains, and bottle-less cooler water stations to cut waste and guarantee staff have access to quality tap water. More importantly, these public officials have used their actions as a platform to rebuild public confidence in the tap and reinvest in the nation’s most vital public service.

“At base, all of our businesses depend on high quality tap water to profit and give something back to the community by way of jobs, goods, and services,” said Maggie Klein of Oliveto. “In cutting out the bottles we are modeling the action we’d like to see Governor Brown take – put state resources into public water not plastic bottles.”

The cities and establishments participating in the bottled-water free California initiative here.

To read a statement from the event, click here

Corporate Accountability International (formerly Infact) is a Boston-based membership organization that has, for the last 35 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment and human rights. Think Outside the Bottle is Corporate Accountability International’s national campaign to promote, protect and ensure public funding for the nation’s public water systems. 

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Additional quotes from mayors in support of going bottled water free:

  • Mayor Joe Krovoza, City of Davis:

"Pay 1,000 times more for a drink of water that pollutes our air and litters our landscape? We can be smarter to protect our wallets and heal our environment.”

  • Mayor James Bond, City of Encinitas:

"The Encinitas City Council leads by example through the elimination of the purchase and use of single-use bottled water at City Council meetings. If the California State government eliminated these purchases, it would save money and send a positive message to residents regarding environmental stewardship."

  • Mayor Ann Schwab, City of Chico:

"Prohibiting the purchase of single serving drinking water is a very public statement that demonstrates my commitment to enhancing the City of Chico’s natural resources, economic resources and quality of life. By taking this simple step, the City of Chico is acting as a role model to the community and promoting a culture of stewardship and a leader in sustainability efforts."

  • Mayor Mary Ann Lutz, City of Monrovia:

"Monrovia ended the use of bottled water in our city offices as part of our efforts to move toward a more sustainable community. We provide large water containers and reusable cups at all of our city events. We believe this reduces waste and encourages our residents to drink our Monrovia Municipal Water."

  • Mayor David Glass, City of Petaluma:

"The city of Petaluma was one of the original signatory of the Mayors Climate Change Initiative on cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions. During the 2006 Sundance Conference it became obvious to me that there is no one magic bullet that is going to solve this problem. It is going to require a series of big and small steps. In Petaluma we invested in our largest infrastructure project with a new wastewater treatment facility that will allow us to recycle our water and lessen greenhouse gas emissions that would be required to pipe water to us from our county water agency. That was an accomplishment of a large scale at a big price. Not every community is going to be in position to make such a large improvement but we can all do the little things such as use local water supply by utilizing pitchers of water that can be refilled rather than bottled water shipped from faraway places. I would hope every community would commit to as many small steps as possible because they will have a cumulative impact that could provide tremendous benefits while saving the local community money in the process."

  • Mayor Gayle McLaughlin, City of Richmond:

"During these tough economic times our government should be spending scarce public dollars on projects that provide vital public services and grow the economy at large, not just the bottom line for a handful of private corporations. Investment in public water is, in this respect, one of the wisest investments we can make."

  • Mayor Ernesto Olivares, City of Santa Rosa:

"The City of Santa Rosa is committed to providing high-quality, dependable, and environmentally friendly water to our community’s taps. Our Take it from the Tap campaign continues to encourage our community to support the local tap instead of purchasing bottled water. This program was started as a way for the city to save money and to educate our community about the economic, social, and environmental benefits of taking it from the tap. Agencies throughout California should promote similar educational programs and cut spending on bottled water, because it just makes cents."

  • Mayor Tom Bates, City of Berkeley:

"Here in Berkeley we have a wonderful, rich supply of clean drinking water right from our tap. It doesn't make sense to pay for something that is readily available naturally while also sending tons of plastic to our landfills." 

  • Former Mayor Larry Robsinson, City of Sebastopol:

"Sebastopol takes seriously the responsibility to lower our individual and collective footprints and the best way to lead is by example. Additionally, our municipal water tastes better than any bottled water we tried in a blind tasting. Spending 1000 times as much for an inferior product and contributing to both greenhouse gas emissions and ocean pollution is anathema to the values of our community. So it only made sense for us to stop buying bottled water."

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