In the last fiscal year, the City of New Haven consumed over 43,000 gallons of bottled water, totaling about $32,000 of spending. In layman’s terms, that’s about 4,000 Wenzels from Alpha Delta. A switch to tap water in city offices and schools drops spending down to about $159, an astonishing fraction of the previous option that would add up as the years go by.
It may be interesting to note where this bottled water comes from. Bottled water is usually associated with natural springs and the great outdoors, but New Haven gets its fill from another city’s tap water! I wish I were kidding. We currently buy water from the municipal water supply of Worcester, Mass., bottle it, and transport it within our city limits for consumption. It does not take a city budget expert to see the holes in this logic, and also how simply this convoluted and wasteful state of affairs could be remedied.
Bottled water presents some serious health risks as well. The plastic used in the bottles we purchase contains materials that have been known to interfere with brain development in infants, affect brain activity in adults and even increase the risk of certain types of cancer. I have always chosen water over soda or other drinks, mostly because I felt I was making a healthy and responsible choice by doing so. Now, I’m not saying that a can of Coke is the ideal drink for a hearty and healthy meal, but an endocrine-disrupting plastic water bottle from Worcester, Mass. is not the answer either. Municipal water, on the other hand, is not only plastic-less but is also tested hundreds of times a month by strict government standards. All of it must come from designated clean water sources. The big picture is even more appealing. Consider the amount of energy and oil we can conserve by choosing not to wastefully manufacture and distribute plastic water bottles in our city. Across the United States, it’s a process that wastes billions of barrels of oil every year.
Think Outside the Bottle at Yale, an organization in which I am involved, has been fighting to make this issue visible to the Yale community and to support the efforts of Alderman Elicker. Learn more about the mission, and look out for an on-campus petition. We need to let the city know that Yalies support no-brainer changes for the better and want to protect our environment and advocating for fiscal responsibility.
Prior to the hearing, Think Outside the Bottle and Corporate Accountability International held a tap water taste challenge for aldermen, testifying parties, high school advocacy groups and other visitors to see if people could actually tell the difference between tap water and different types of bottled water. I was one of the people administering the challenge, and we found that the vast majority of people, with the exception of a tap water specialist, could not tell the difference. So even if the economic and environmental benefits don’t convince you, will the fact that you probably can’t tell the difference do the trick?