IBWA Opposes Bill to Restrict Bottled Water Access in San Francisco

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) issued the following statement regarding legislation being heard today by the San Francisco Land Use and Economic Development Committee, which would ban the sale or distribution of bottled water in plastic bottles of 21 fluid ounces or less on city and county property, including parks, concerts, large public events, and mobile food trucks.

“The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) opposes this bill and supports the right of San Franciscans to choose clean, safe, healthy, refreshing, reliable and zero-calorie bottled water when making their beverage decisions.  Efforts to eliminate  access to  bottled water on San Francisco city or county property will force people   to choose less healthy drink options, which  have more packaging, more additives (e.g., sugar, caffeine), and greater environmental impacts than bottled water.  Moreover, this legislation would mean that there would be no bottled water available on city or county property for immune compromised people or during emergency situations when tap water is compromised.

The Healthy Consumer Choice

In today’s on-the-go society, most of what we drink comes in a package.  Consumers choose bottled water for several reasons, including its refreshing taste, healthfulness, reliable quality, zero calories and additives, and convenience. In fact, since 1998, approximately 73 percent of the growth in bottled water consumption has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks, juices, and milk to bottled water.

In addition, research shows that if bottled water isn’t available, 63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugared drink – not tap water.  We expect the same consumer response if access to bottled water is restricted in San Francisco, certainly during events where consumers are seeking convenience, reliability, and portability.

Banning access to bottled water directly impacts the right of people to choose the healthiest beverage on the shelf.  And for many, bottled water is a critical alternative to other packaged beverages, which are often less healthy.  Drinking zero-calorie beverages, such as water, instead of sugary drinks is regularly cited as a key component of a more healthful lifestyle and efforts to reduce the prevalence of obesity in adults and children. Promoting greater consumption of water from all sources, including bottled water, will support the efforts of consumers striving for a healthier lifestyle. Bottled water must therefore be available wherever packaged beverages are sold.

Bottled water is comprehensively regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a packaged food product and it provides a consistently safe and reliable source of drinking water.  By federal law, the FDA regulations governing the safety and quality of bottled water must be at least as stringent as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards that govern tap water.  And, in some very important cases like lead, coliform bacteria, and E. coli, bottled water regulations are substantially more stringent.

Support for Public Water Systems

The bottled water industry supports a strong public water system, which is important for providing citizens with clean and safe drinking water.  In fact, many bottled water companies use public water sources for their products.  This source water is then treated using a multi-barrier approach which may include one or more of the following: source monitoring, reverse osmosis, distillation, micro-filtration, carbon filtration, ozonation, and ultraviolet (UV) light, and bottled under sanitary conditions.

However, people should always be able to choose bottled water, especially when health is a concern.  For example, water from public water systems is often compromised after emergency situations or natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods, chemical spills, wild fires, or boil alerts.  During these times, bottled water is a necessary and reliable alternative to deliver clean, safe drinking water.  However, if this legislation is enacted, consumers will not have access to safe drinking water on city or county property during emergency situations.

Immune Compromised Individuals

FDA regulations require that bottled water meet strictly defined microbiological and chemical safety standards which provide a safe, consistent, and reliable source of water.  In fact, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that individuals with compromised immune systems drink bottled water.  However, if this legislation is enacted, immune compromised San Franciscans on city and county property will not have access to bottled water.

A Good Environmental Steward

The bottled water industry is a strong supporter of our environment and our natural resources.  In fact, bottled water’s environmental footprint is the lowest of any packaged beverage according to a life cycle assessment conducting by Quantis in 2010.

Bottled water recycling rates are also increasing. At nearly 39 percent, the recycling rate for single-serve PET plastic bottled water containers has more than doubled between 2003 and 2011. And, bottled water bottles are the most frequently recycled PET beverage containers in curbside recycling programs. In addition, EPA figures demonstrate that plastic water bottles make up less than one-third of one percent of the U.S. waste stream.

All bottled water containers are 100 percent recyclable and PET plastic bottled water bottles also use less plastic than any other packaged beverage. Between 2000 and 2011, the average weight of a 16.9-ounce PET plastic bottle declined 48 percent, saving 3.3 billion pounds of PET resin since 2000.  Many bottled water companies are already using recycled plastic in their bottles and some are producing 100 percent recycled PET water bottles.”

About The International Bottled Water Association

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters.  Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers.  IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, and state governments to set stringent standards for safe, high quality bottled water products.

In addition to FDA and state regulations, the Association requires member bottlers to adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations.  A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is an annual plant inspection by an independent, third party organization.  Consumers can contact IBWA at 1-800-WATER-11 or log onto IBWA’s web site (www.bottledwater.org) for more information about bottled water and a list of members’ brands.  Media inquiries can be directed to IBWA Vice President of Communications Chris Hogan at703-647-4609 or chogan@bottledwater.org.