208437 Unbottled: Community advocacy campaigns to preserve public ownership of water resources

Tuesday, November 10, 2009: 5:00 PM

Wenonah Hauter, MS Anthro , Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
U.S. consumers buy more bottled water than anyone else in the world. In recent years, awareness has grown about the presence of contaminants in bottled water; a less publicized but equally important public health concern is the impact of private ownership of a resource necessary for human life. Bottled water companies remove and profit from community groundwater, often without revealing the amount of water extracted or addressing the toll that extraction takes. Externalized costs include groundwater depletion, heavy truck traffic, air pollution, and a contribution to climate change from transporting water long distances.

The presenter leads an organization involved in community-based campaigns to preserve public ownership of water resources. This talk will present two of these campaigns – McCloud, California and Kennebunk/Kennebunkport/Wells, Maine – as case studies to discuss the public health impacts of water extraction and community tools to mitigate them.

McCloud is the site of a campaign against a proposed Nestlé bottling plant. This case study will also focus on ongoing state policy work to improve the transparency of water extraction; currently, bottled water companies are not required by law to disclose the source or quantity of water they extract, even in drought-prone areas. The Maine campaign is targeted at Nestle's Poland Spring subsidiary, which proposes to extract more than 200,000 gallons of water per day from the community's aquifer. Community members are working with the state legislature to require public utilities to hold referenda and hearings before agreeing to sell water to commercial operators.

Learning Objectives:
1. List major concerns associated with multinational bottled water companies taking control of a community’s water. 2. List key elements of an advocacy campaign to preserve public management of community water resources. 3. Describe policies that can be promoted on the state or local level to address this public health concern.

Keywords: Drinking Water Quality, Access

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am the Executive Director of Food & Water Watch, a national organization working to secure public access to clean water resources.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.