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Tap or bust

June 27, 2007

Mayor Gavin
Newsom has signed an executive order to prohibit the San Francisco government from using city money to buy bottled water for employees.

Not only this, but all city concessions, city-funded events
and functions in city buildings will not be able to use city money to buy
bottled water by July 1, and by Dec. 1, all city departments located on city
property must switch from bottled water dispensers to those on
taps or water pipes and use water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite
National Park.

Despite owning a pristine reservoir in the Sierra Nevada that is said to
produce some of the country’s best-tasting tap water, the city spends nearly
$500,000 a year on bottled water.

All this equates to this as the perfect solution for San Francisco, but will other cities partake and make this trend go mass?

It depends on a few things:
#1 Priorities.
San Francisco is already very eco-friendly. It tends to set the precedent on these issues, like the plastic bag ban that is soon catching on in Boston, Phoenix, Santa Cruz and Portland. California made the “eat local” movement popular, so it makes sense to start “drink local” too.

Farmers Diner in Quechee, Vermont has stopped selling bottled water and Del Posto, a posh New York restaurant, is planning to stop too, but will other cities that are not as consciously involved in these initiatives be as keen to adopt trends like this? 50 to 60% of consumers still prefer bottled water and it drives restaurant profit since it’s sold at a hefty markup.

#2 Taste
San Francisco water tastes better than bottled water (they’ve done tests!) so it makes sense to move away from bottled water here. Can the same be said of the water in other cities? 

“Santa Monica is known for its terrible tap water,” said Anastasia
Israel, an owner of Abode, which opened there a month ago. Patrons are
reluctant to drink the tap water, but after servers explain the
filtration process, 80 percent of them give it a try.” (May 30, 2007, New York Times)

#3 Bottled water industry
They’re surely not going to go opinion-less on the matter. 
What will they do to combat or accommodate the trend?

Also, just because restaurants are doing it in other states doesn’t mean it will be implemented as policy. If the benefits aren’t clear or measurable on a mass level, will the cost for policy makers be too high?

Maybe a more global perspective is necessary to fully visualize the problem, as some of the largest increases in bottled water consumption have
occurred in developing countries. Of the top 15 per capita consumers of
bottled water, Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates, and Mexico are growing fastest. While per capita rates in India and
China are not as high, total consumption has tripled in India and more than doubled in China in
just five years (February 2, 2006, Earth Policy Institute). If everyone in China drank 100 8-ounce glasses of bottled water a year
(just over one fourth of the amount consumed by the average
American in 2004), China would consume about 31 billion liters of
bottled water, quickly becoming the world’s leading consumer.

Yikes, I’ll take tap, thanks.

Posted by katie facada

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