NEW YORK — Cities around the U.S. are joining influential restaurateurs and activists in a public campaign to be launched Wednesday to convince consumers to choose tap water over bottles.
Chez Panisse restaurant, run by celebrity chef Alice Waters in Berkeley, California, has joined Corporate Accountability International and others to promote tap water as safer and more environmentally conscious. The campaign encourages cities to stop using public money to buy bottled water for its offices and to press for greater disclosure of where the water comes from that goes into the bottles, though the pledges vary based on what each city decides.
Critics say bottled water wastes energy and resources through production of plastic bottles and energy used in the shipping process. Their efforts are aimed at curbing bottled water consumption, which is growing at double-digit rates in what is already an $11 billion a year industry. Growth has exploded since health concerns have sent shoppers looking for alternatives to sugary colas.
Boston and Salt Lake City as well as cities in California such as Emeryville and San Leandro have signed on to the campaign to be launched Wednesday.
Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said, "When I see people at the airport go over to a vending machine and waste their money buying bottled water at the vending when it's standing right next to a water faucet, you really have to wonder at the utter stupidity and the responsibility sometimes of American consumers."
Several other cities — Oakland, California; Portland, Oregon; Austin, Texas; Chicago; Minneapolis, and Baltimore — are holding public events on Wednesday to draw attention to the issue. Plans include a tap water taste challenge to see if consumers can tell the difference between bottled water and tap.
Disclosure of the sources of bottled water has been a key concern. Two of the biggest sellers, PepsiCo Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co., get their water from municipal water sources, which is where most tap water originates. Under pressure, PepsiCo recently decided to spell out that its Aquafina brand comes from a "public water source." Its labels previously said just "P.W.S." Coca-Cola sells the Dasani brand.
In June, the cities of San Francisco and New York brought more attention to the issue with their own campaigns. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom banned city-funded purchases of bottled water and New York City launched an ad campaign called "Get Your Fill" to promote the benefits of tap water. The U.S. Conference of Mayors also adopted a resolution to bring attention to the negative impact of bottled water.
Alice Waters' star power added to a growing movement by offering homemade sparkling water at her restaurant, and now the culinary empire run by Mario Batali — including New York restaurants Del Posto and Babbo — reportedly has plans to follow suit.
Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.