We’re already fed up with bottled water companies for sucking the water out of California and other drought-threatened areas, but this latest news is really one for the history books. In a last minute amendment to a House spending bill, the insane notion has been proposed that bottled water companies should have a legally protected right to sell their wares inside the boundaries of National Parks. At this time, it’s uncertain what the chances are of that language making it into law, but the fight between Big Water and the National Park Service is a competitive one, and it’s clearly not over yet.
Over 20 of the 58 National Parks in the United States have banned the sale of individual plastic bottles of water for a number of reasons. One of the biggest reasons is the plastic itself. Visitors to National Parks don’t always share the same ecocentric ethos and those empties often end up as litter, clogging up parks and damaging fragile environments that are home to countless wildlife species. The Park Service further argues that encouraging travelers to bring a reusable bottle reduces greenhouse gas emissions that stem from the production, transportation, and recycling of the disposable plastic bottles.
Although parks visitors are still permitted to bring in disposable water bottles, NPS officials are looking for new ways to encourage people to “reuse” as much as possible. In parks where bottled water isn’t sold, reusable water bottles are. At the Grand Canyon, a number of convenient “refilling stations” offer free water fill-ups to visitors as a greener alternative to disposable water bottles. There, the fight to ban water bottle sales was a tough one, and Coca-Cola (bottlers of Dasani brand water) initially threatened to withdraw financial support from the park if the ban was enacted. Thanks to overwhelming public support for the ban, the Grand Canyon National Park scored a win for the environment and the ban began in early 2012.
“Big Water” has reportedly spent $510,000 so far lobbying congress to end the sales ban as part of this most recent effort, according to The Washington Post. What’s the argument? They claim banning sales of bottled water will encourage people to consume more soda, and that the parks service is simply being lazy about recycling. These are the same tired claims we’ve heard from the bottle water industry giants for decades, but if the sales ban really does turn people toward sugary beverages, perhaps it’s time to concede. One park, Saguaro National Park in Arizona has already done a really smart thing to address that problem, if it is one: ban the sales of both bottled water AND soda.