403 National Parks Service Units to Rid of Bottled Water
A campaign to ban commercial bottled water at all 403 national park service units is on tap at the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area.
Actually, organizers of Corporate Accountability International’s “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign are going first to East Stroudsburg University, on Wednesday at 2 p.m., to prime support for their cause. The public is invited to East Brown and Smith streets for a “blind” taste test of local tap water versus bottled water.
“In our experience, people either don’t notice any difference or prefer tap water,” said Rebecca Laden, a New York University student and an intern at Corporate Accountability International.
But much more than taste is at stake in trying to convince the national park and its visitors to kick the bottle habit, said Lauren DeRusha, a campaign spokeswoman. She pointed to economic and environmental reasons not to consume bottled water.
“Part of our goal is challenging corporate water control,” DeRusha said. “Basically the problem is the profit motive.”
International corporations funded by the World Bank promote expensive, privatized water systems in Third World countries, rather than making water available to everyone regardless of ability to pay, she said.
In the U.S. and other advanced economies, private companies value the profit motive over serving people, she said. Consumers pay hundreds of dollars each year for bottled water, and the empty bottles are often the biggest waste problem in national parks.
Water bottle bans are already in place at 75 national park units, according to a Corporate Accountability International website posting.
“As an ecological trust and an environmental role model, when national parks take a stand, that’s the best possible message national parks can make,” DeRusha said. “Park superintendents have told us their biggest ecological problem is bottled water. And it is not a problem with other bottled products.”
Laden and other student organizers also plan to collect petition signatures Wednesday urging Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area Superintendent John Donahue to seek a conversion away from bottled water. A similar ban will be sought at Valley Forge National Historical Park.
“I’m from Bucks County, so Valley Forge and Delaware Water Gap were very close to my heart,” Laden said.
Campaign officials hope to present the petitions to Donahue next week and meet with local park officials on how to provide alternatives to bottled water.
Some Delaware Water Gap facilities already employ alternatives to bottled water, NPS spokeswoman Kathleen Sandt said. Pocono Environmental Education Center doesn’t sell bottled water but has a water filling station and sells reusable water bottles. The Dingmans Campground is transitioning to a filling station.
Peters Valley crafts center and the Mohican Outdoor Center, on the New Jersey side of the park, currently sell bottled water. Sandt was checking late Tuesday on the water policies at the park’s Dingman Falls and Kittatinny Point visitor centers.
The proposed ban isn’t aimed at prohibiting park visitors from bringing bottled water to the park, DeRusha said. It is hoped visitors will opt on their own to stop using bottled water.
“A lot of park-goers are already at that point,” DeRusha said.
Organizers work with park officials to establish stand-alone and wall-unit water bottle refill stations, either indoors or outside. Hikers, canoeists and other park users fill up with their own containers or buy containers from park vendors.
The vendors are banned from selling bottled water but often sell cheap, and higher-priced keepsake reusable bottles promoting the park, DeRusha said.
Written educational materials are made available to the public explaining the program.
Water refill stations can be installed easily and economically, she said. Vendors often find that they earn as much or more revenue selling the reusable bottles, said DeRusha.