We often see critics linking together private water companies and bottled water as jointly promoting “commodification” of the world’s water supplies. While the differences should be fairly obvious between investor-owned utilities and companies that provide design, construction, operations and maintenance services to governments, on the one hand, and companies that bottle, distribute and sell water to consumers, on the other, last week those differences were brought into clear focus.
American Water Works Company, Inc. is the largest investor-owned water utility in the United States, with operations in 33 states and 2 Canadian provinces that serve over 15 million people. The company has attracted its share of attention from the enemies of private water, with the community of Felton, California condemning one of American’s small water systems and inspiring a number of communities to form local organizations called FLOW (Friends of Locally Owned Water) in a frenzy of anti-corporate pentecostalism. Nevertheless, American started a new campaign last week to promote the use of tap water and persuade consumers not to purchase bottled water.
The campaign, which is called America on Tap, includes language that could be taken right from Take Back the Tap, the anti-bottled water mission of Food and Water Watch, an organization that routinely confuses bottled water and private sector participation in water utilities. America on Tap sounds equally evangelistic on its website, even if a bit more restrained:
America on Tap is our yearlong effort to make a difference for the environment by helping to reduce the consumption of bottled water. 85% of plastic bottles end up in landfills. It takes 1,000 years for the average plastic bottle to biodegrade. Reducing the amount of disposable water bottles purchased can have a direct effect on the amount of bottles that ultimately ends up in landfills.
Water is essential to life, but you have a choice when it comes to where you get your water. Pledge allegiance to the tap and do your part for the environment by promising to drink tap water instead of purchasing disposable bottles of water. To join the growing community of people who have taken the pledge, click here. Once you register, you’ll be able to see the difference you’ll be making.
Remember the counter on our homepage? That’s the amount of disposable water bottles we can prevent from going into landfills. When you take the pledge you can contribute to that number and do something good for the environment. And don’t forget to spread the word to your friends, because the more people who take the pledge, the bigger the difference we can make. We’re all in this together, so check back often to see our progress.
One has to wonder if the critics of private water will be able to maintain their confluence of private-sector participation in water utilities and bottled water in the face of this tap v. bottled water war within the private sector. Then again, the anti-private crusaders have never let truth get in the way of their narrative, so a cease-fire on this front seems unlikely.