National Parks Ask Bottled Water Industry to Take a Hike

waterBy Kristin Urquiza

We’re on the verge of the next wave of National Parks going bottled water-free.

Today, a broad coalition led by Corporate Accountability International is providing the grassroots support for four major national parks to take this step: Mt. Rainier, Yosemite, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and Independence National Historical Park. Park goers will deliver more than 40,000 petition signatures to park officials today in San Francisco, Philadelphia, and Seattle.

National Parks are a treasure of happy memories and experiences for so many people. That’s why it is so critical to preserve our parks for future generations. Corporate Accountability International recently asked its members about their favorite national parks and memories there. Martha B., a Corporate Accountability International Member from Arizona, met her husband at a National Park and later they got married in the picnic area!  However, no one had any good memories about litter or corporate advertising in the parks, which is a good reason, on its own, for parks to end the sale of bottled water. But that’s not all.

Bottled water is a costly product that is anything but green. Why drain clean water from one source, package it in plastic, ship it using fossil fuels, and then charge park goers for the product when clean water is already available from the tap? Bottled water simply does not make economic or environmental sense.

Then, why are the parks filled with bottled water? It’s no accident. For decades, Coke and the bottled water industry have used our national treasures to profit at the public’s expense. The parks are clearly a profit center for Coke. About 300 million people visit National Parks every year, and Coke is cornering that market. Between 2007 and 2012, Coke entered into an exclusive agreement with the National Parks Service and National Park Foundation to use park logos in their marketing. All other beverage corporations were excluded from using park logos according to the agreement.

In spite of the ubiquitous industry presence, individual parks have, to their credit, tackled the problem of bottled water head on. But Coke is not just standing by while park officials take steps to buck the bottle. Coke executives are actively blocking parks from going bottled water-free.

In December 2010, Grand Canyon’s Superintendent Steve Martin retired from the Park Service after 35 years. He was a staunch advocate for making the Grand Canyon bottled water-free. Two weeks before his carefully studied policy was implemented, he got word the program was “tabled.” In November 2011, he was interviewed by the New York Times:

Stephen P. Martin, the architect of the plan and the top parks official at the Grand Canyon, said his supervisors told him two weeks before its Jan. 1 start date that Coca-Cola, which distributes water under the Dasani brand, had registered its concerns about the bottle ban through the foundation, and that the project was being tabled. His account was confirmed by park, foundation and company officials.

Parks officials have persisted, however, thanks to a groundswell of grassroots support for their principled stands. Now 14 parks, including Grand Canyon, Zion and Saguaro National Park are bottled water-free.

John Wessels, the Intermountain Regional Director, recently stated in an official National Parks Service press release that, “[o]ur parks should set the standard for resource protection and sustainability, Grand Canyon National Park has provided an excellent analysis of the impacts the elimination of bottled water would have, and has developed a well-thought-out plan for ensuring that the safety, needs and comfort of visitors continue to be met in the park. I feel confident that the impacts to park concessioners and partners have been given fair consideration and that this plan can be implemented with minimal impacts to the visiting public.”

The Intermountain Region is the largest geographic region within the Park Service and includes iconic parks such as Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

Tens of thousands of park-goers across the country are supporting the National Parks Service in continuing down this brave path which pushes back against Coke’s profiteering. And park officials have been receptive to the public outcry, seriously considering the steps they need to take to buck the bottle. These high-profile parks can help set the standard for the remaining 380 units in the system to follow.

It won’t be easy. We know Coke will throw up roadblocks to progress, as it has in the past. But it’s worth it to protect our precious National Parks. National Parks are not a concession stand. National Parks are not a billboard. It’s time for our National Parks to go bottled-water free.

[image credit: Fellowship of the Rich: Flickr cc]

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8 responses

  1. I don’t normally drink bottled water (I prefer flavored, no-sugar alternatives), but the problem with tap water is
    1: Dubious quality. “Most likely OK” is not good enough.
    2: Erratic availability
    3: High chance of poor taste
    4: Cannot control temperature
    5: Not portable unless I bring a bottle, in which case I may as well have brought my own bottled drink in the first place

      1. Municipal tap water is regulated when it goes INTO the pipe, not when it comes out of a spigot where hundreds of people have been putting their mouths and dirty bottles all day. Well water isn’t really regulated at all. And of course you shouldn’t take drinking water from a tap in a bathroom or what not, because it might be a gray-water system.

        Or I can just drink bottled water, which is virtually always municipal tap water that gone through a multi-stage purification process (Aquifina, for example, is multiply filtered, then exposed to UV to kill germs, then subjected to reverse osmosis, then filtered through activated carbon to remove those nasty bleach-tasting organics) and put into a sterile bottle.
        Have fun drinking your water that comes out of a germ hive and tastes like the rear end of a chemical factory. I’ll bring my own drinks, or if I am in the wild, filter water that has been nowhere near a municipal system.

    1. Your answers don’t make a lot of sense, unless you are really, really self centered and lazy.
      1 – Most likely “ok” is almost certainly more regulated and controlled than bottled water, plus they likely have an excellent local source and a filter
      2 – that makes no sense, there is water at any visitors center
      3 – again, makes no sense
      4 – and this matters because…. why?
      5 – the whole point is to bring your own bottle. are you going to go on a hike with no water?

    2. Tap water has hundreds of regulators at local, state and national levels. Bottled water is by and large tap water (Aquafina is St. Louis, MO, if you like your Mississippi water). Bottled water, on the other hand, has only a handful of people and many fewer regulations.

      The availability is wide–the responsibility is on you to bring a reusable bottle.

      Most tap water has fine taste.

      Water fountains are pretty easy way to keep water chilled. Once it’s in your bottle, that’s on you, the same it would be if you purchase.

      It’s a heck of a lot cheaper to always just bring your own bottle.

      1. I find that most tap waste tastes like rear-end, to the point that a lot of it has such a strong chemical after-taste that it dries out my throat and leaves me with a sensation of thirst that is worse than before I drank. I will only drink unfiltered tap water in a pinch.
        Tap water comes out somewhere in the 50-60 degree range. A vending machine normally spits out something around 35-40 degrees. The former will be lukewarm in minutes and isn’t even pleasantly cooling on a hot day.
        I agree, I could save a bit of money if I drank nasty-tasting tap water more often, but I am not that poor.
        I also see infinitely more places to buy bottled drinks than I do drinking fountains.

        1. “I also see infinitely more places to buy bottled drinks than I do drinking fountains” …

          Now perhaps you’re starting to see the problem?

          If you’re dumb enough to buy bottled water, that’s your problem. But you have no right to make up nonsense to scare more people into your paranoid little world.

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