Community Votes To Become Australia's First Bottled Water Free Town - Updated

An Australian country town, Bundanoon, has voted at a community hall meeting to overwhelmingly support a proposal that it become Australia’s (if not the world’s) first bottled water free town.

And the news seems to have spurred on the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) to announce a ban on bottled water from all state offices and agencies.
Community Action
The idea was raised in an open letter to the town’s community newspaper and immediately a working group of local residents from the New South Wales town of Bundanoon rallied around the concept. They developed the concept further, giving it the slogan of Bundy On Tap and approached local retail businesses and events to see if they would support the initiative.

A meeting of about 20 local businesses endorsed the project, even though about half of them, as beverage retailers stood to lose income from the venture. But they magnanimously recognised the environmental impact of bottled water, and felt, on balance, the benefit to the community outweighed the sales profit.

At a town meeting on Wednesday 8 July 09 an estimated 400 local people (from a town of about 2,500) filled the community hall, and after a discussion on the pros and cons of the venture, they voted wholeheartedly for the proposal. It is understood there were 1 to 2 persons not in favour.

This is community spirit at its most engaged. A town’s people making their own decisions, and taking localised action on environmental issues, without waiting for outside external forces to do the work for them.

Implementation of a Bottle Water Free Town
So how will the proposal work in practice? Well, the town’s retail businesses that previously sold single-use, bottled still water will no longer stock this product in their drinks fridges. (sparkling water, fruit juices, etc, are not effected because they are not available via the municipal water system.) Shops will alternatively make available for sale affordable, reusable, refillable water bottles. Some are even considering the option of in-store chilled water filters, so customers can access filtered water for their reusable bottles.

Additionally, with the assistance of the Bottled Water Alliance, a campaign of the activist organisation Do Something, the town will partner with Street Furniture Australia and Culligan Water to install three filtered water ‘bubblers’ or water stations. Two for the town and another for the town’s primary school. The water stations will be prominently sign-posted, and will also incorporate taps that can be used for refilling bottles. It is anticipated that most of these endeavours will be realised by October 2009, making Bundanoon effectively Australia’s first Bottled Water Free Town.


Topical Issue
As news broke in newspapers on the morning of Bundanoon’s pending vote, media interest became intense. We understand that almost 80 interviews were given during the day and not just to Australian media, although three of the major TV stations immediately sent crews to cover the news. International media from the UK, New Zealand, the USA and even Japan picked up on the story. Obviously bottled water is an issue that captures hearts and minds. And can polarise opinion. (see the comments that accompany the many stories -- some listed below -- we’ve previously covered on bottled water.)

Environmental Impact of Bottled Water
In information compiled by the town’s Bundy On Tap campaign, they note that
Australia’s annual consumption of bottled water is about 540 million litres. To sell this much bottled water the industry uses approximately 1 billion litres of water each year. In environmental terms the production and distribution of this volume of bottled water created more than 60,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, equivalent to the emissions 13,000 cars generate in one year.

The NSW Department of Environment and Climate Change estimates that 200ml of oil is used to produce, package, transport and refrigerate each litre bottle of bottled water. As a result, at least 50 million litres of oil is used in the manufacture and distribution of bottled water in Australia every year. Thus bottled water has a higher carbon footprint, that is more than 300 times greater per litre than tap water.

A comprehensive American study found the total energy required for bottled water production was as much as 2,000 times the energy cost of producing tapwater. Much of that energy, in the form of plastic created from limited oil reserves, is squandered as up to 65% of single use bottles used for commercial bottled water in Australia are not recycled, finding their way into landfill or waterways.

Yet bottled water costs 500 times more that the water readily available from municipally provided taps. In many cases, it is, in fact, the same water. Many millions of litres of bottled water sold in Australia is sourced from municipal water. Nor is bottled water necessarily any more safe. In Australia bacteria, chemical disinfectants and aluminium have been found in bottled water samples.

State Government Endorsement
Not long after the news of Bundanoon’s Bundy on Tap project was unveiled, such startling figures were also being quoted by the NSW State Premier, Nathan Rees, who announced a statewide ban on the provision of bottled water through all state run buildings and agencies.

UPDATE - New Website added showing the international media interest in a story about a bottled water ban
::Bundy On Tap
Top Image: Bundy On Tap Working Group / Karen Gray
Photos: Warren McLaren / INOV8

Disclosure: This writer is resident in Bundanoon, is involved in the working group that developed the proposal that was voted on, and is a personal friend of the idea’s original proponent. However due to other commitments was not in attendance at the town meeting.
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Tags: Australia | Conspicuous Consumption | Consumerism | Pollution