By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
A waste of water, energy and taxpayer dollars.
That’s how a corporate watchdog group described Congress’ bottled water habit in a report released this week showing that the House of Representatives spent nearly a million dollars on bottled water last year.
In its report Tapping Congress to Get Off The Bottle, Corporate Accountability International, suggests that this money could be saved if lawmakers made onetime investments in water fountains and water filters instead of buying bottled water year after year.
And once members and staff were back drinking economical tap water, they might pay closer attention to the needs of public water systems across the nation which face “a record investment gap of $22-23 billion per year,” according to the CAI, a non-profit watchdog group based in Boston.
Many mayors and governors have already curbed the use of bottled water by governments, not it’s Congress’ turn to join the movement toward a greener way. That would cut down on plastic waste and the needless shipping and bottling costs of using bottled water, which other studies have shown is often just tap water, with a label.
“The energy used to produce and transport water bottles in the U.S. alone uses the energy equivalent of up to 54 million barrels of oil each year. That’s enough energy to fuel roughly three million cars for a year,” according to the report.
With regard to Congress, CAI’s study found that:
- The U.S. House of Representatives spent at least $860,000 between April 2009 and March 2010, or an average of about $2,000 per member on bottled water.
- 70 percent of the expenditures went to bottled water giant Nestlé, with most of the remaining amount going to two other major bottlers, DS Waters and Culligan.
- These expenditures contradicted congressional initiatives aimed at “greening government practices and purchases”.
This spending could have been avoided, if members and their staff simply drank American tap water, which, despite its infrastructure needs, remains “a model to the rest of the world, providing safe and reliable drinking water to nearly every American.”
Nestle issued a response to the report, dismissing the expenditures by Congress (spending on bottled water by the Senate was not available).
“Some interest groups have advocated an end to bottled water products at state and municipal buildings and here on Capitol Hill, as if the mere act of turning from bottled water would solve the challenges they seek to address,” said Brian Flaherty, Nestle Waters’ vice president of government affairs, in a statement. Flaherty said that CAI’s claims fail to provide a “complete picture of bottled water’s real environmental impact and its importance as a contributor to a healthy lifestyle.”
See this list to find out what your Representative spent on bottled water during the study period. (You’ll see that the Committee on Natural Resources spent $4,621 and the Committee on the Budget spent $5,380.)
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