Supes Unanimously Approve Bottled Water Ban For All Events On City Property

The sale and distribution of plastic water bottles on public property in San Francisco will soon be banned following a unanimous vote today by the city’s Board of Supervisors.

The legislation from board president David Chiu, which targets water bottles of up to 21 ounces, will take effect Oct. 1, with certain exemptions until 2016 for food trucks and outdoor events where a reliable on-site water supply is not yet feasible.

The legislation will apply to all events on city property starting in 2018.

Chiu and other advocates of the proposal held a news conference outside City Hall this morning to discuss the merits of tap water over bottled water.

“It’s a much healthier and cheaper version,” Chiu said.

He said the production, distribution and disposal of plastic water bottles uses 2,000 times more energy than the use of tap water and that San Francisco uses between 10 and 15 million plastic water bottles annually.

Harlan Kelly, general manager of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said the city’s water, which comes from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, “is the best-tasting tap water in the nation” and that his agency is adding more drinking fountains and water filling stations around the city.

The American Beverage Association has opposed Chiu’s legislation, calling it “nothing more than a solution in search of a problem.”

“Water is good for you, and people should be able to choose how they drink it—whether from a tap, a fountain or a recyclable container,” the ABA said in a statement.

“Bottled water is the purist, safest and cleanest water possible,” the group said, although attendees at today’s news conference disputed that notion.

The beverage industry “has spent millions on misleading marketing” claiming bottled water is safer, said Katherine Sawyer with the nonprofit Corporate Accountability International.

“It spouts this myth even though tap water is much more strictly regulated,” Sawyer said.

The group partnered with the city’s Department of the Environment on a “tap water challenge” outside of City Hall, where members of the public did a blind taste test of tap and bottled water.

“People have been all over the map,” said Juliana Bryant, zero waste coordinator with the Department of the Environment. “That’s pretty much the point, it all tastes like water.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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