Earlier this year, the grade 7 and 8 students of Sacred Heart elementary school in Estevan decided they wanted to ban bottled water from their school. When Nestlé Waters Canada got wind of the students’ decision, they sent a letter of rebuttal to the Estevan Mercury and also offered to fly in a company representative from Toronto to debate the issue with the students.
On June 6, the students and their teachers hosted Nestlé Waters Canada’s Director of Corporate Affairs, John Challinor II. His main arguments were that banning bottled water did not reduce the number of plastic bottles in landfills and that bottled water is a necessary right. Presenting the case against bottled water were local members of Development and Peace and KAIROS. (See inside this leaflet for their arguments.)
Although the debate had no declared winner or loser, the students seem to have stuck to their original decision: The Coca Cola machine that dispensed bottled water at the school has been removed.
8 REASONS TO BAN BOTTLED WATER
1. Bottled water is not safer or healthier.
●Bottled water companies advertise their product as a safer and healthier alternative to tap water. Nothing could be further from the truth. Bottled water is regulated as a food product under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. As such, water bottling plants are inspected on average only once every three years. Regulation of tap water, on the other hand, is far more stringent. In general, municipal tap water is tested continuously during and after treatment. ●25% of bottled water is taken directly from the tap.
2. Bottled water costs 200 – 3000 times more than tap water.
In most places in Canada, bottled water is a wasteful luxury. Canada has one of the best drinking water systems in the world, but the bottled water industry has worked hard to undermine our faith in public water. The industry sells water – what should be a shared public resource – for huge profits.
3. Bottled water contributes to climate change.
Water bottle plastic is a petroleum product. It requires large amounts of energy to make that plastic, not to mention the fuel needed to run bottling operations and to transport the bottles.
4. Bottled water containers contaminate the air.
Bottled water containers release highly toxic chemicals and contaminants into the air when they are manufactured and again when they are burned or buried.
5. Plastic water bottles end up by the millions in local landfills.
Canadian municipalities cannot support the amount of garbage generated by the bottled water industry. Although the plastic bottles are recyclable, at least 200 million of them end up in Canadian landfills every year. In some communities the percentage of water bottles ending up in landfills is 80%.
6. Bottled water leads to water shortages.
20% of Canadian municipalities have faced water shortages in recent years. Canada is a net exporter of bottled water, selling its ancient glacier waters all over the world mostly for the profit of the foreign-owned, big four water companies. Water shortages have also been reported in the Great Lakes region near water bottling plants. Twice as much water is used to produce bottled water than the amount in the bottle.
7. Drinking water is a public resource, not a commodity.
Do you remember when drinking water fountains were much more numerous in Regina? That was before bottled water turned a public resource into a commodity, something that is not accessible to all people. Now, public water fountains aren’t being maintained or installed in new buildings. By marketing its water as safer and healthier, the bottled water industry undermines confidence in public water systems, paving the way for private water companies to take over under-funded local utilities.
8. Water is a human right.
In the Global South, bottled water companies are buying up springs and wells and fencing them off so that local people can no longer use them. The companies then target the new middle class market. Some governments use the existence of bottled water as an excuse to avoid having to provide clean water to their citizens. As a result, those who cannot afford to buy bottled water, the majority of the population, end up consuming unhealthy water.
Congratulations to Estevan’s Sacred Heart School.
We encourage the City of Regina to follow the Sacred Heart School example and ban bottled water from city facilities. In 2009, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities resolved to “phase out the sale and purchase of bottled water” on municipal property. 85 other municipalities have made good on that pledge.
BY THE NUMBERS
30% Proportion of Canadians who say bottled water is their primary source of water
2.2 billion Litres of bottled water Canadians consumed in 2008
$1.6 billion Amount Canadians spent on bottled water in 2008
$8.5 million Amount spent on bottled water by federal government departments in facilities where safe drinking water was easily accessible from 2004-2008
$766,865 Amount spent by Environment Canada
3,384 The number of water fountains that could be installed for $8.5 million
TO DO LIST
- Contact Mayor Pat Fiacco and tell him you want the city to phase out the sale of bottled water on municipal property: Service.Regina@regina.ca or 777-7339.
- Send the same message to your City Councillor.
- Contact the Wascana Centre Authority and ask for the drinking water fountain that is situated in the north side of the Park on the path between Darke Hall and Albert Street to be repaired: firstname.lastname@example.org or 522-3661.
- Lobby to get a water fountain repaired or installed in a facility you frequent.
- Promote tap water in your home and place of work.
SOURCES AND RESOURCES
Bottled water is simply water in a bottle.
Tap into public drinking water.