International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) President and CEO Joe Doss today presented testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Domestic Policy Subcommittee Government Reform and Oversight Committee about the bottled water industry’s minimal use of groundwater resources to produce a healthy, safe, and convenient packaged beverage product. The bottled water industry accounts for only 0.02% (2/100) of all groundwater withdrawals in the United States according to a 2005 study by the Drinking Water Research Foundation (DWRF). Mr. Doss also addressed bottled water industry support of comprehensive groundwater resource management. “IBWA member bottlers recognize the critical importance of environmental conservation and stewardship of all water resources and employ conservation and stewardship practices to their use and management of groundwater resources,” Mr. Doss stated, “This is achieved through the use of monitoring wells and environmental assessments of their sources to help ensure both quantity and quality of the source, are often a part of local/regional water stewardship partnerships on aquifer protection.”
Mr. Doss also stated, “Groundwater management laws and regulations must be comprehensive, science based, multi-jurisdictional, treat all users equitably, and balance current uses with future needs. From the perspective of water management programs, the bottled water industry should be treated no differently than other beverage, food processing and other manufacturing operations. If bottled water is produced according to FDA regulations, it is without question a product, and all products should be treated equally. To single out bottled water from other food products – not to mention thousands of other consumer products that use water as an ingredient or in production – will not further the sustainability of water resources and is not in the best interest of consumers.”
Bottled water is a packaged food product, regulated comprehensively by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as well as state governments. Critics are focusing on bottled water production as a misguided and misinformed attempt to block groundwater use by the industry, while setting the stage for a wider attack on commercial, industrial, and agricultural users.
Doss stated, “Based on our experiences in the states, it is very clear that there is a need for more and better data on the aquifers throughout the United States in order to assist state authorities in managing available water resources. We think that this is an area where the federal government can play an important role. As a result, IBWA supports the enactment of HR 135, which would establish the 21st Century Water Commission to make recommendations on how to ensure a comprehensive water resource strategy in the United States. Every member of the current Domestic Policy Subcommittee who served in the 109th Congress voted for HR 135, when it passed the House of Representatives in 2005.
However, all groundwater use must be based on the science of the particular site. IBWA supports the development of comprehensive state groundwater management legislation to assist in making those decisions. However, such a framework must treat all groundwater withdrawals equitably. IBWA believes there is a need for more and better data at the state level on groundwater resources. A number of federal agencies, such as USGS, EPA, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Land Management, Corps of Army Engineers, maintain water data on both quality and quantity, and it would be helpful for states to have access to this information when managing their groundwater resources. However, this data is not easily accessible and is not as complete as needed. Additional federal assistance in developing useful data for evaluation of proposed large withdrawals would enable state water management officials to better evaluate their resources and withdrawals.
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