Don’t drink the (bottled) water: County taps into the trend

First the city – then the Water Without Waste campaign – now, West Seattle’s County Councilmember Dow Constantine is behind a “no bottled water” county proposal that gets a final vote week after next. Here’s the news release:

Ban on bottled water purchases now before King County Council

Final action set for June 9 for one of first such legislative actions in the nation

In an effort to reduce environmental impacts and save money, the Metropolitan King County Council is now considering an end to the purchase of single-serve bottled water.

“King County’s cities and water districts provide some of the best drinking water in the nation, so why are we buying bottled water?” asked Councilmember Dow Constantine, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “With an average price of one dollar per pint, bottled water costs about $8 per gallon – twice as much as gasoline.”

The Council’s General Government and Labor Relations Committee on May 29 recommended for passage a proposed ordinance to prohibit King County agencies from purchasing single-serving bottled water.

Constantine noted that producing a single one-liter plastic water bottle itself consumes three liters of water, and producing the 31 million bottles of water Americans purchase annually requires 17 million gallons of oil. He said tap water is cheap: at current Seattle water rates, a gallon of water costs one-third of one cent.

The proposed ordinance would restrict the purchase of single-serve bottled water by County agencies, departments and offices. The legislation also directs the County Executive to adopt policies and procedures for implementing the bottled water restriction in the King County environmental purchasing policy. The legislation would permit the use of single-serve bottled water in cases where there are no reasonable alternatives to access to safe drinking water, when there are hydration requirements for employees working outside of county facilities, or to comply with state or federal workplace rules or other contractual reasons. The legislation does not restrict the purchase of large bottled water for use in water coolers.

While the cities of Seattle and San Francisco recently adopted similar policies, they were enacted by executive order and affect only their cities’ executive branches. King County’s legislation would extend to all County agencies.

The proposed ordinance is set for final action by the County Council on June 9.

Read more about this legislation on the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system
at and type in “2008-0217”

4 Replies to "Don't drink the (bottled) water: County taps into the trend"

  • M May 30, 2008 (1:56 pm)

    Why is the county buying water for it’s employee’s in the first place? In the private sector, if I want a bottle of water, or anything else, I pay for it myself.

  • flowerpetal May 30, 2008 (3:12 pm)

    I believe that the only bottled water that the county was buying for employees were the huge water cooler bottles. The County, and other local governments were buying single serving bottled water for meetings, conferences etc. That practice will, I presume, end.
    As for the private sector; many employers stock break rooms with bottled water, other beverages and a truck load of snacks. High tec industries, law offices, consulting firms, are a few that come to mind.

  • mike May 30, 2008 (8:22 pm)

    vending machines too. My guess is that this is insignificant and mostly just a PR stunt. It doesn’t seem like small steps like this would help the problem with fuel prices/demand.

    If I did my math correctly it takes 17million gallon of gas to produce 31million bottles. That means that it takes 1/2 gallon of gas to produce 1 bottle. That doesn’t seem very efficient. That means each 1 liter bottle costs $2 in gas alone.

  • jeannie May 31, 2008 (2:46 pm)

    Here’s an excerpt from my email to Dow Constantine (and I am a great fan of his):

    I want to provide you with my take on the bottled-water proposal. I used to drink Seattle tap water, but about three months ago, I started noticing a strong chlorine taste and smell. So now I fill up my two three-gallon water jugs at the Metropolitan Market, then transfer the water to a smaller dispenser in my refrigerator. When I want to take water with me, I use my metal water bottles, which, of course, I can reuse over and over.

    If Seattle tap water didn’t have that nasty chlorine smell and taste, I could save my money and not have to buy water. But regardless, I am not using plastic bottles that are bad for the environment.

    Maybe the county council can look into the chlorine issue, and people would be more likely to drink (and fill their metal water bottles) from the tap.

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