Bottled Water Companies Want to Make It Illegal for National Parks to Kick Them Out

CC BY 2.0. Grand Canyon National Park. A young visitor uses a filling station in Grand Canyon National Park.

In an effort to curb waste and pollution, many National Parks have banned the sale of bottled water. Now the industry is pushing back with legislation tacked onto a House spending bill.

Back in 2012, the Grand Canyon National Park began prohibiting the sale of bottled water, in an effort to reduce pollution and cut the costs of waste removal and recycling. Today, over 20 parks have followed suit, and instead provide visitors with free water refilling stations. According to the National Parks Service, using the water stations also reduces the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production, filling, transportation and recycling of disposable plastic bottles.

But the bottled water industry is pushing back, with a small last-minute amendment to a House spending bill. The amendment, introduced by Representative Keith Rothfus, prohibits parks from eliminating “the sale in National Parks of water in disposable plastic bottles.”

The Washington Post reports that the industry has spent $510,000 to lobby congress to end the sales bans.

Currently, parks that ban the sale of bottled water on their grounds do not prohibit visitors from bringing disposable water bottles into the park. And at many national parks, reusable water bottles are for sale to visitors who might forget to bring their own.

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA), whose members include Danone, Absopure, Grand Springs, Glacier Springs, Evian and about 200 others, argues that banning water sales encourages the consumption of less healthy beverages such as soda.

The industry group “applauds” the amendment. “These bans, whether in national parks or college campuses, are misguided attempts to deal with a waste management issue that would be better addressed through efforts to improve recycling rates of all packaged drinks,” said Chris Hogan, IBWA Vice President of Communications, in a press release.

Beverage companies have a long history of promoting recycling instead of addressing the problems associated with single-use packaging. Refilling a reusable bottle uses a fraction of the resources compared with recycling many disposable plastic bottles. If banning bottled water does make drinking soda seem like a better option, then perhaps more parks should follow the lead of Saguaro National Park in Arizona by eliminating the sale of both soda and bottled water.