Mayor Newsom Encourages Restaurants to Drop Bottled Water

SAN FRANCISCO, California, March 21, 2008 (ENS) - Mayor Gavin Newsom was joined Thursday at the Ferry Building by national nonprofit Food & Water Watch and local restaurant leaders who took the opportunity of United Nations' World Water Day March 22 to follow the city's lead by replacing bottled water with tap water.

In June 2007, Mayor Newsom issued an Executive Directive barring use of city funds to buy bottled water in an effort to protect the environment. City departments have nearly reached full compliance with the bottled water ban.

"I'm glad to report that bottled water spending by city departments under my direction has stopped," said the mayor. "We are drinking tap water again at City Hall and across city government, and I call upon the restaurant industry to join us in promoting the best tasting water in the country by removing bottled water from their menus."

Mayor Newsom highlighted the city's ongoing initiative against bottled water and its impacts to the environment by announcing a new partnership with the national nonprofit Food & Water Watch to "Take Back the Tap."

The consumer advocacy group is working with cities across the nation to urge local restaurants and chefs to sign a pledge to switch to serving only municipal tap water, help educate customers about the benefits of tap over bottled water, and whenever possible, install a carbonation machine to make sparkling water from the tap.

U.S. plastic bottle production uses more than 17.6 million barrels of oil each year. About 86 percent of the empty plastic water bottles in the United States land in the garbage instead of being recycled.

A growing number of Bay Area restaurants, including San Francisco's Incanto, Delfina, and Nopa, Berkeley's Chez Panisse, and Sausalito's Poggio, have removed bottled water from their menus without negative impact to their bottom line, the mayor said.

"Offering our guests complimentary filtered San Francisco water with their meal combines the best of generous hospitality, care for our surroundings, and authentic local flavor," said Mark Pastore, owner of Incanto, a restaurant that has been serving tap water since it opened in 2002. "What we sacrifice in profits by not selling bottled water, we more than make up in increased goodwill with our guests."

Other Bay Area restaurants also have made the move to tap water, like the world-renowned Chez Panisse in Berkeley and the Italian trattoria, Delfina.

"We made the decision to serve tap water because it eliminated the need for storage and disposal of excess bottles and because San Francisco has an excellent municipal water source," said Delfina co-owner, Craig Stoll.

The city's more than 3,000 restaurants will receive a copy of the new "How-To Guide for the San Francisco Restaurant Switch to Tap Water," published by Food & Water Watch.

"Bottled water is an expensive con job on consumers," said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. "Cities like San Francisco are leading the way in kicking the bottled water habit and in raising awareness that tap water is the healthiest and most cost-effective choice for consumers."

"All Americans should have access to safe, affordable tap water," she said. "To make that a reality, we need Congress to create a dedicated source of funding for water infrastructure."

Hundreds of college students will gather in Washington, DC on Saturday for a World Water Day Summit to learn about world water issues and advocate for solutions in the United States. Students will meet with their congressional representatives on Monday.

Following Mayor Newsom's announcement, volunteers distributed stainless steel water bottles to lunchtime visitors. The stainless steel bottles are a sustainable alternative to throw-away plastic water bottles for drinking water at work or on the go.

The stainless steel bottles are available while supplies last at San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Customer Service office, 1155 Market Street and other locations for those who sign a pledge to stop buying bottled water.

As part of his drinking water initiative, Mayor Newsom directed the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to protect and preserve San Francisco's drinking water quality.

Within 60 days, the Commission will produce a detailed and specific Water Quality Protection Plan. During that time, the Commission will convene a National Water Quality Advisory Council of water quality experts from across California and the nation to help develop the plan.

The Public Utilities Commission has applied for an $11 million grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to fund innovative water quality protection measures throughout the regional water system.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.

Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2008. All rights reserved.