IBWA: Bottled Water Industry Sees Shift in Momentum

Organization reports several incidents indicate a shift away from bans and toward public support

Three recent actions--the nullification of an attempt by a town to ban bottled water sales, the reversal of a state government’s anti-bottled water purchasing policy and an abrupt end to a controversial proposal to ban the sale of bottled water at outdoor venues controlled by a large city--all point to the summer of 2010’s “shift in momentum” away from bottled water bans and toward more public support for this safe, healthy, convenient product, according to the International Bottled Water Assn. (IBWA).

The Massachusetts Attorney General’s office on July 8, 2010, voided a decision made last spring at an annual Town Meeting in Concord that would have completely banned the sale of bottled water within the town limits. The attorney general’s decision declaring Concord’s vote to be null and void due to procedural errors may be sign that the days of easy “wins” could be over for anti-bottled water activists, who face increasing legal, economic and health policy scrutiny from government officials, according to IBWA.

After the initial decision to ban the sale of bottled water, the Concord selectmen (board) voted to support the motivation of the ban, but also voted not to attempt to enforce the ban unless they heard otherwise from the attorney general’s office, which they did. Concord’s attempted sales ban came only a few days before nearby Boston endured a major boil alert leaving 2 million people without clean tap water over a three-day period.

The Commonwealth of Virginia’s newly elected Governor, Bob McDonnell (R), on July 11, 2010, took a second look at his predecessor’s “green” initiatives, which prohibited commonwealth agencies from purchasing single-serve bottled water for official functions and meetings, and by executive order deleted the anti-bottled water directive.

According to the governor’s spokesperson, “This governor is not going to put in place mandates that hurt Virginia industries.” Data from IBWA indicate Virginia has a strong bottled water market.

IBWA said the San Francisco Examiner reported that officials in Mayor Gavin Newsom’s office wanted to review a city official’s report that would prohibit the sale of bottled water at parades, fairs, festivals, ball games and any outdoor event on city property. Commenting at the time, IBWA pointed out the potential unhealthiness of the proposal, since people attending these outdoor events need to stay well hydrated, particularly during the hot summer months.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, city officials admitted that keeping people hydrated in bottled water free outdoor environments could be a challenge.

The San Francisco Chronicle also reported no further actions were taken on this proposal.

“These recent actions clearly demonstrate a shift in momentum for consumers. This July, we saw three major anti-bottled water initiatives fizzle out. Will they be back? Of course, but there’s a lot less wind at their back now that government leaders are giving way to common sense,” said Tom Lauria, IBWA’s vice president of communications.


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