Vancouver proposes bottled water ban at facilities: Globe and Mail
Posted: April 20, 2009

April 20, 2009

VANCOUVER — The City of Vancouver is proposing to go green and ban the sale of bottled water at its facilities – despite crystal-clear memories of the cloudy tap water during flooding two years ago.

The proposal would see the phased removal of bottled water from city facilities and more spending for water fountains and sinks where reusable water bottles can be filled with Vancouver tap water, which the report boasts is “among the best in the world.”

“The intent is not to drive people back to soda pop. You’ve got to make sure there is a viable alternative,” said Brian Crowe, assistant city engineer.

The ban would affect facilities ranging from the Pacific National Exhibition, where the 2010 Olympic figure-skating and speed-skating events are to be hosted, civically owned theatres such as the Queen Elizabeth that serve bottled water at intermission, and social service providers such as the Carnegie Centre.

The proposal estimates that as much as $840,000 a year may be lost if the sale of bottled water is stopped at these and other city-owned facilities.

The changes would not put a significant dent in the number of water bottles that go to Vancouver landfills, but are seen as a way for the city to demonstrate its “leadership on sustainability” and “confidence in the tap water quality” of Vancouver, according to the proposal.

In November, 2006, confidence in tap water was shaken when about two million residents of Vancouver, North Vancouver, and Burnaby were cautioned to boil their tap water or buy bottled water for a 12-day period after a storm caused landslides that stirred up drinking water reservoirs. Bottled water was tough to come by.

That headache-inducing hiccup in Vancouver’s otherwise usually good tap water record put it on a list of mostly aboriginal, rural, and northern communities who are consistently warned to boil their tap water.

A report published in February, 2008 by the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed 1,766 boil water advisories were in place in communities across the country at that time, with Ontario and British Columbia home to the most – communities for whom banning bottled water is not an option.

Vancouver’s proposed ban follows a resolution last month from the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to encourage bottled water bans and a wave of bottled water restrictions in municipalities across Canada.

Thirty-six municipalities including Toronto, Burnaby, and Metro Vancouver have already passed restrictions, 20 of them since January, according to Joe Cressy, spokesman for the Polaris Institute.

The proposal also follows concern over the quality and monitoring of bottled water. Last month, the Polaris Institute obtained documents through Access to Information requests that showed that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency often finds problems with bottled water but doesn’t tell the public about them.

They called the bottled water industry “essentially self-regulating” and said that there is “a serious lack of regulatory control by the Government of Canada over bottled water production.”

The proposal to ban bottled water sales will go before Vancouver city council on Thursday, according to Mr. Crowe.