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Camelback, the Petaluma, Calif.-based maker of reusable water bottles, has donated 2,000 water bottles to the residents of Bundanoon, a small tourist town 90 miles southwest of Sydney, Australia. When it decided in July to ban the sale of bottled water, Bundanoon became a poster child for the fight against bottling and selling water in communities that already have clean tap water.
Camelback’s gift was timed with a turning-on-the-tap celebration throughout Bundanoon last weekend, a party that included the christening of three public water fountains, providing free, filtered water (courtesy of Culligan Water) with which to tap off those Camelbacks.Treehugger reports that Bundanoon also hosted the Australian premiere of the documentary Tapped. All of this focus on Bundanoon might place the town of 2,500 year-round residents on many an eco-traveler’s itinerary, generating patronage that could make the income lost from the sale of bottled water a drop in the proverbial bucket for local businesses. But that remains to be seen.
What also remains to be seen is whether companies such as Camelback and Culligan will now turn their attention to other communities that are wrestling with the issues around water bottles and water bottling. See, the whole ban in Bundanoon grew out of opposition to a proposed bottling plant in the town, which would have, according to the New York Times, extracted millions of liters of water from the local aquifer—only to truck the water out to Sydney where it would be sold. Some of that product would likely come back to Bundanoon and find itself on shop shelves. “So the idea was floated that if we don’t want an extraction plant in our town, maybe we shouldn’t be selling the end product at all,” community leader Huw Kingston told the Times.
We recently reported that like-minded residents of the small town of McCloud, California, succeeded in their fight to keep the Nestle Corporation from building a bottling plant in their town. But the fight is now shifting to Sacramento, to whose waters Nestle has shifted its attention. It wants to build a plant that would consume 50 million gallons of water annually. While that’s a fraction of what Nestle hoped to get from McCloud, it still would require 800 million new plastic water bottles being introduced into the environment, according to Save Our Water Sacramento, an opposition group. But more importantly, the group decries Sacramento’s decision to allow the plant to extract water from the city’s resources despite the fact that its in its third year of drought.
Will companies such as Camelback stand up to the $60 billion (worldwide) bottled water market and join the fight to keep water bottling plants out of places such as Sacramento? Aside from being a feather in the Camelback’s social responsibility cap, opposing bottled water is a major marketing opportunity—as the Bundanoon give-away proved. After all, we’re giving it ink right here.