SAN FRANCISCO, California (AP) — Is city water better than bottled water? Mayor Gavin Newsom thinks so. Newsom has issued an executive order banning city departments from buying bottled water, even for water coolers. The ban goes into effect July 1, and will extend to water coolers by December 1. The move was billed as a way to help stem global warming and save taxpayer money. “We’re hoping to set the example for the private sector and other cities in getting off the bottle,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for the San Francisco public utilities commission. In a press release announcing the decision, the mayor cited the environmental impact of making, transporting and disposing of the bottles. More than a billion of them end up in the state’s landfills each year, the release said. When the ban goes into effect, city and county offices will dispense municipal tap water from a reservoir. Winnicker said exceptions will be made in cases where potable water is not easily available or poses health concerns.
San Francisco gets its water from the pristine Hetch Hetchy reservoir. So it has some of the best tap water in the world. But that won’t stop right wingers from having a complete shit fit about this ban. They just love their bottled water. And they hate the idea that any government could tell anyone not to buy a destructive product, no matter how unnecessary or damaging that product might be.
Here’s why bottled water is especially bad:
- PET bottles which take enormous quantities of polluting energy and resources to manufacture are normally used once and thrown away. The social cost of this waste is not reflected in the price of the product. This is an unpaid externality.
- Bottled water is often used when equally clean tap water is nearby. Ironically countries such as the U.S. which have the cleanest tap water are also the ones with the highest consumption of bottled water. Billions of people worldwide without access to clean drinking water would happily drink our tap water–it might even save their life!
- Few people take even the small obvious step of refilling and reusing bottles, because they think it is ‘unsanitary.’ The biggest problem with re-using plastic bottles is the growth of a person’s own mouth bacteria on the rim. But this only becomes noticeable after a week or so. If everyone reused their water bottles 3-5 times, it would cut down on a severe and growing source of pollution and greenhouse gases.
- Public perception that tap water is inferior has led to the growth of the bottled water industry. This is not the case. Bottled water is not necessarily even better than tap water. It has similar and sometimes higher levels of pollutants–often times it IS actually bottled tap water.
Gavin Newsom’s move may seem trivial. Even as people mock, however, they may start to think twice about the true social costs of unnecessary plastic use. If it raises consciousness and moves us to a more sustainable society, it’s well worth it.