IBWA POSITION STATEMENT
May 2, 2008
BOTTLED WATER INDUSTRY RESPONSE TO U.S. CONFERENCE OF MAYORS’ WATER COUNCIL MEETING
The US Conference of Mayors (USCM) on May 1, 2008 convened in New York City a joint meeting of the USCM Mayors Water Council and the Municipal Waste Management Association, an environmental affiliate of USCM, to examine new information on the economic and public health benefits of local government investment in municipal water and sewer infrastructure and services. The meeting was a follow-up to directives in the USCM Resolution No. 90, which encouraged 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) has been-and will continue to be–supportive of the USCM initiative by participating in the USCM fact-finding process and sharing detailed information that demonstrates the important role of bottled water as a healthy beverage-of-choice; the industry’s outstanding commitment to recycling, environmental stewardship, and protection and sustainability of natural resources; and the comprehensive US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and state regulations and industry standards that help ensure bottled water safety and quality. IBWA Chairman Chris Saxman (Shenandoah Valley Water Co.) addressed the USCM Mayors Water Council at its May 1st meeting and has committed IBWA expertise to help ensure that bottled water facts are fully available to the mayors.
IBWA supports improvements to our nation’s water infrastructure and, in the event user fees or other funding mechanisms are put in place, would consider supporting funding of those improvements via rate increases that treat all rate payers equally. The fact is that bottled water companies that utilize municipal water systems are rate-payers; their production and sales have no relationship to water infrastructure challenges. And, 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. Yet, bottled water is available at a variety of price points, with an average per-gallon cost of $1.64, according to A.C. Nielsen.
- FDA mandates stringent standards to help ensure bottled water’s 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.
It’s About Choice, Not Bottled Water Versus Tap Water:
- IBWA is concerned as the USCM report frames the issue as a “bottled water versus tap water” debate, possibly causing confusion and discouraging consumer choice of this important bottled beverage.
- Studies have shown that 75 percent of consumers drink both bottled water and tap water depending on the circumstances; it does not always amount to a tap water versus bottled water choice as people are not uniformly replacing municipal drinking water with bottled water.
- Consumers choose 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 and provides convenient refreshment and hydration.
Bottled Water Part of the Recycling Solution:
- 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.
Bottled Water and Emergency Relief:
- In times of water emergencies or disasters, bottled water companies respond with efficiency and speed with regard to provide bottled water in coordination with emergency relief operations.
- The bottled water industry provides millions of bottled water servings in response to natural and man-made disasters each year.
IBWA stands ready to continue its work with the USCM 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.