Let's raise a glass to Mayor Gavin Newsom of San Francisco - a glass of water, that is. Of tap water, to be precise.
The mayor has banned the use of bottled water by city departments, to save money and to help save the environment. It's something of a gesture, of course, since it affects only city purchases. But if it gets San Franciscans thinking about their use of water, it could have a larger impact. Other cities with good tap water (Baltimore, this means you) should consider following suit.
Americans' consumption of bottled water has spouted like a geyser over the past decade, and it now comes to about 30 billion bottles a year (twice what it was in 2002). Most of these are made of polyethylene terephthalate, a derivative of crude oil. It costs money and resources to make those bottles, to ship them and to dispose of them. And the water inside them is no purer than the water that comes, thanks to gravity, out of most kitchen faucets. In fact, providers of public tap water are subject to more frequent regular inspections than private bottlers are.
Of course there are places where bottled water makes sense; when drinking fountains in some Baltimore schools were discovered to have lead problems, bottled water was a necessity until the repairs could be completed. But Baltimore's city government spent $132,000 on bottled water last year. Was it all really necessary? Or could the city try to set an East Coast version of the San Francisco example, and show it has faith in its own outstanding system?