35 California Cities Buck Bottled Water; Mayors Urge Governor to Follow Suit

For Immediate Release

35 California Cities Buck Bottled Water; Mayors Urge Governor to Follow Suit

Statement by Kristin Urquiza, Think Outside the Bottle campaign director

WASHINGTON - Corporate Accountability International is a non-profit membership organization that has, for the last 35 years, successfully advanced campaigns protecting health, the environment and human rights. We are here today for a campaign that requires no candidates, debates, or stump speeches to achieve its object, only the commitment of the state to Vote the Tap and Kick the Bottles out. 

For decades bottled water marketing has eroded public confidence in the tap, working to convince us that water should treated as a commodity.  The result? By 2003, one in five people were drinking exclusively bottled water citing quality concerns as their main reason for doing so.  We’ve forgotten that there are simple, cost effective alternatives to bottled water that can and should be implemented; such as, using reusable glasses and pitchers at meetings.   

With this trend towards bottled water, the political will to adequately fund public water systems has waned. Today, bottling giants like Nestlé stake their long-term growth on the continued decline of public water infrastructure and their ability to disparage it (with campaigns like “Born Better”). But states don’t have to feed this vicious cycle any longer.

With me today are  Mayor Jean Quan from the city of Oakland,  Maggie Klein of Oliveto and Jared Hirsch from Sidebar, two popular Oakland restaurants, all of whom have committed to, first, making their cities and establishments a bottled-water free zone and, second, to encourage Governor Brown to do the same and reinvest in the tap. There is a growing bottled water free movement around the state whose home is here in the East Bay.  In total, 35 cities across the state and 30 local establishments have signed on to support the Think Outside the Bottle campaign, which aims to promote, protect and ensure public funding for the nation’s public water systems.  In addition to this 2 universities here in the bay area that are in the process of going bottled-water free.  Furthermore, these cities and establishments are asking that the governor issue a policy to cut spending on bottled water at the state level. A series of reports by Corporate Accountability International have shown that states across the country are spending upwards of hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars a year on bottled water. Based on a sample audit, we found that some agencies spent approximately $5,000 annually to purchase bottled water for their offices.  Considering that there are nearly 300 state agencies in California, the total annual spending figure could top one million dollars. Such spending goes on even as the national investment gap for the tap deepens – it is now $23 billion annually. 

And this action is not unprecedented.  Already five states have put together policies and plans to phase out unnecessary spending on bottled water and more than 140 cities and 12 universities nationwide have done so as well. As Mayor Jean Quan will tell you, spending taxpayer dollars on bottled water sends the absolute wrong message about the quality of the state’s public water and its commitment to preserving the tap for generations to come. This is not to mention how wasteful this spending is at a time when our state can ill afford such an unnecessary expense.

Five governors have already kicked the bottle, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars. Many have also invested in bottled water alternatives, such as reusable water bottles, refurbished water fountains, and bottle-less cooler water stations in their own offices to cut waste and guarantee staff have access to quality tap water. More importantly, these public officials have used their actions as a platform to rebuild public confidence in the tap and reinvest in our most vital public service. And we are asking that Governor Brown lead the charge.

It’s time for Governor Brown to take the next critical step in signaling his administration’s commitment to the tap. He has already stated his opposition to bottled water and commitment to sustainability: as the Attorney General, Governor Brown warned Nestlé that California would challenge Nestlé’s plan to pump water from the McCloud River because the corporation failed to consider the global warming impacts of producing and transporting millions of gallons of water. Let's ensure that the Governor remains committed to these important values by choosing the tap. Protecting public water and championing investment in public water systems creates well-paying green jobs and preserves our drinking water for generations to come – yielding true sustainability.

To ensure California does not continue to send the mixed messages about the tap, Governor Brown should issue a directive to end all spending on bottled water and reinvest in the tap. The investment will not only be a job creator and an engine for economic growth and renewal, but is necessary for the health and well-being of all California residents and the world around them.

It is now my pleasure to introduce Mayor Jean Quan to talk about why spending money on bottled water sends the wrong message about the quality of our state’s drinking water, and how investing in public drinking water is critical to both public health and building a strong economy. She will be followed by Maggie Klein of Oliveto and Mark Drazek from Sidebar, local business leaders who will share why they are proud to serve the tap and invest in the infrastructure of this great city and this great state.

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Corporate Accountability International has been waging winning campaigns to challenge corporate abuse for more than 30 years. We were there at the beginning of this movement to demand direct corporate accountability to public interests and have been at its forefront ever since.

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