The US Conference of Mayors on June 25, 2007 passed Resolution No. 90, which encourages the compilation of information regarding the importance of municipal water and the alleged “impact of bottled water on municipal waste.” The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) welcomes the opportunity to share some important facts about bottled water with the mayors as they undertake this task.
Bottled water is comprehensively regulated at both the federal and state levels. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water’s consistent safety, quality and good taste. By law, FDA bottled water standards must be at least as stringent and protective of public health as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards for municipal drinking water systems. Bottled water is sourced from both natural groundwater as well as municipal sources. FDA and state governments recognize municipal water systems as a legitimate and valid source for bottled water production and have specific labeling and other standards to help ensure consumers are aware of the type of bottled water they choose.
Resolution No. 90 frames the issue as a “bottled water versus tap water” debate, possibly causing confusion among consumers and discouraging choice of this important bottled beverage. Consumers are not uniformly replacing municipal drinking water with bottled water. Rather, they are choosing bottled water as an alternative to other packaged beverages because it does not contain calories, caffeine, sugar, artificial flavors or colors, alcohol and other ingredients. Many consumers likely drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances; it does not always amount to a tap water versus bottled water choice.
Plastic beverage bottles are among the most recycled packaging in this country and all bottled water containers are recyclable, where facilities exist. Rather than focusing on one beverage product, it would make more sense for government officials to focus on improving recycling rates for all consumer packaging.
Packaging is a critical part of the network that delivers products to consumers and is an essential feature of public health and modern life, including bottled water. IBWA members are focused on improving the environmental performance of beverage containers. Overall, the bottled water industry, like many others in the food and beverage industry, works to reduce its environmental footprint, including the use of lighter-weight plastics for its containers and increasingly fuel efficient means of transporting product to market. As with other food and beverage products, consumers demand a variety of choices and types of bottled water, some of which may be produced in other states or overseas.
Just as local governments invest in providing safe municipal drinking water, bottled water companies invest many millions of dollars in developing water sources, production plants, packaging, and safety and quality measures. Further, bottled water is available at a variety of price points, with an average per-gallon cost of $1.64, according to A.C. Nielsen.
IBWA stands ready to work with the Conference, mayors, and other civic leaders across the country to address the need for safe drinking water and to help promote comprehensive environmental conservation and stewardship policies.
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