BOSTON, Mass. Feb. 8, 2011 - Following calls to trim the budget as well as to live up to its sustainability goals, today members of the U.S. House of Representatives supported calls to cut bottled water spending on Capitol Hill.
The announcement came at an event releasing a report by the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International documenting that the House spent at least $860,000 on bottled water – or almost $2,000 for each House member – over a year's time.
More than 65,000 messages asking House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) "to cut wasteful spending and eliminate bottled water purchases from the House budget" also were delivered and shared with reporters. The messages were gathered by Corporate Accountability International, Change.org and Food and Water Watch.
"Congress is spending almost a million dollars annually on bottled water for itself that often carries misleading claims of purity, when water of equal or better quality is available through the public drinking water system installed here in the House," said Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). "Let's start cutting close to home and shifting our priorities from an entirely unnecessary expense to reinvesting in our nation's public water infrastructure."
The study, "Tapping Congress to Get Off the Bottle," examined the Congressional expenditures on bottled water from April 2009 through March 2010. It found that, if Congress redirected money spent on bottled water, it could purchase more than 4,000 drinking fountains, ‘bottle-less' coolers and water filtration units on Capitol Hill – more than enough for each Congressional office and a one-time investment in water infrastructure that would show Americans that Congress is serious about saving money and supporting public water.
The study also found that 70 percent of the bottled water was purchased from industry leader Nestlé, with most of the remaining coming from bottlers DS Waters and Culligan.
"The bottled water industry has manufactured demand for an essential resource that already flows from our taps," said Kristin Urquiza, Think Outside the Bottle Director for Corporate Accountability International. "The marketing has been so effective that even the national body responsible for funding and stewarding public tap water is unnecessarily spending close to a million each year on the bottle."
"If fiscal responsibility is the aim of the incoming Congress, I would remind them that our tap water costs about a penny a gallon, and bottled water costs hundreds of times more," said George S. Hawkins, general manager of the District of Columbia's Water and Sewer Authority, who spoke at the report's release today. "Choosing tap protects the environment, too, from the harms of plastic bottles."
Bruce Williams, mayor of nearby Takoma Park, MD, attended the event. "Our city officials felt like we needed to step up our efforts to be a greener place, and one easy thing to do was to have city government get off the bottle," he said. "We started with ourselves, voters appreciated that, and now it's time for all of Congress to do the same."
"When every penny counts, we cannot afford to spend taxpayer dollars on bottled water," said Environmental Working Group senior legislative analyst Jason Rano. "Instead, our leaders should focus on protecting and rebuilding our country's crumbling drinking water systems."
"Bottled water is an elaborate scam designed to strike fear among the public that tap water is somehow unsafe to drink," said Food and Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter. "This is a real opportunity for members of Congress to step up and demonstrate their faith in public tap water systems by slashing spending on wasteful, unnecessary bottled water from their budgets."
The study recommends a series of actions by Congress:
• Phase out or reduce congressional spending on bottled water in both the House and the Senate;
• Further the investigation of the bottled water industry's regulation and increase congressional pressure on the industry to improve its transparency and disclosure practices; and
• Bolster support for our public water systems through programs and policies that boost public funding for, and investment in, water infrastructure.
By submitting a comment you consent to our rules. You must use your real first and last name, not a nickname or alias. A comment here is just like a letter to the editor or a post on Facebook. Thank you.