There’s something not right about paying $2 for a bottle of water that’s essentially been taken straight out of a Calgary tap.
That was the sentiment of Saanich council, which last week unanimously supported banning bottled water from rec centres and municipal buildings.
With stringent rules on the quality of the Capital Regional District’s drinking water supply, Coun. Vicki Sanders said it doesn’t make sense – economically or environmentally – to continue selling brands like Dasani and Aquafina that use water from other sources.
“When the consumer looks at cost of water and lack of quality regulations on bottled water compared to our tap water, they’re better served in every way by our supply,” she said.
The cost of one litre of municipal water is one-tenth of a penny.
However, bottled water will still be available from municipally run vending machines until 2014. That’s when the current vending machine contract expires. In the meantime, Saanich will convert water fountains into hygienic, bottle-filling stations and launch an education campaign promoting use of personal water bottles.
The other concern about bottled water is the environmental impact of the plastic bottles themselves.
“We are exceptional in the region in recycling the plastic bottles, however the amount of water used to produce the bottle, process the water and dispose of it outweighs its value,” Sanders said. “In the case of bottled water, the entire life cycle of the bottle from manufacturing to recycling results in significant greenhouse gas emissions.”
Coun. Leif Wergeland commented that the best way to achieve all environmental goals – and reduce the total number of bottles going to the landfill – is by banning all beverages available in plastics, including juice and pop.
“We initially wanted to do all plastic beverage containers, but that got shot down,” Sanders commented. “In three years time though, who knows? The nature of vending could change completely and beverages could be in different containers.”
From a health perspective, Coun. Judy Brownoff suggested more should be done to provide healthier alternatives – not solely focussing on the packaging.
“It’s not just the wrapper but what’s behind the wrapper. It should also be the healthiness or unhealthiness of what’s being sold too,” she said.
Saanich is the 83rd municipality in Canada to restrict the sale of plastic water bottles. In this region, North and Central Saanich as well as Esquimalt have some form of restrictions in place.
“We were looking for ways to lead by example on the environment … and (banning water bottles) was one of the things we could do quickly,” said Esquimalt Coun. Randall Garrison. “I’ve honestly had no negative feedback. People have been quite appreciative, actually, of the decision.”
Sanders hopes Saanich’s direction will inspire businesses within the municipality to follow suit.
“Once the train’s out of the station, the cars hook on. And this has definitely got momentum,” she said. “We’re not driving anyone out of business. We don’t hate bottled water companies. We’re just not proliferating something that we think isn’t the best choice for our community.”
Costs per litre
Saanich councillors have trouble with paying $2 for about half-a-litre of bottled water from a vending machine when a litre from the municipal supply costs less than one-tenth of a penny. Here’s how the price of bottled water compares to other products:
1L of unleaded gas- $1.24
1L of milk- $2.09
1L of fruit juice- $2.30
1L of Coca-Cola- $1.10
1L of Starbucks coffee- $4.82
1L of chicken broth- $3.54
1L of ketchup- $5
1L of salsa- $5.29
1L of soy sauce- $7.50
1L of vanilla ice cream- $4.22
1L of dish soap- $2.50
1L of fabric softener- $3.70