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Metropolitan King County Council

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June 9, 2008

Reaching for the tap instead of the bottle: County Council restricts purchases of bottled water

Measure is one of first such legislative actions in the nation

King County today joined the growing list of jurisdictions limiting the purchase of single-serve bottled water, under legislation approved today by the Metropolitan King County Council restricting such purchases by all County agencies, departments and offices.

“King County’s cities and water districts provide some of the best drinking water in the nation, so why are we buying expensive bottled water?” asked Councilmember Dow Constantine, prime sponsor of the ordinance. “If we are asking citizens to moderate their environmental impacts, we must ensure that County government is leading the way. This ordinance is one step in that direction.”

Constantine said producing a single one-liter plastic water bottle itself consumes three liters of water, and producing the 31 million bottles of water Americans purchase annually requires 17 million gallons of oil. He said tap water is cheap: at current Seattle water rates, a gallon of water costs one-third of one cent.

“As recently as 15 years ago, we all drank water straight from the tap,” said Council Chair Julia Patterson. “We have some of the cleanest water in the world here in the Pacific Northwest and there is no reason why drawing our water from the tap cannot again be the norm.”

“As one of the nation’s leaders in environmental protection, this ordinance is one more example showing King County’s commitment to conserve our resources,” said Councilmember Larry Gossett.

“Today the County Council stepped up its commitment to preserving the environment, and acknowledged that addressing global climate change will require leadership from citizens and elected officials alike,” said Councilmember Bob Ferguson, a co-sponsor of the legislation.

The legislation also directs the County Executive to adopt policies and procedures for implementing the bottled water restriction in the King County environmental purchasing policy. The legislation permits the use of single-serve bottled water in cases where there are no reasonable alternatives to access to safe drinking water, when there are hydration requirements for employees working outside of county facilities, or to comply with state or federal workplace rules or other contractual reasons. The legislation does not restrict the purchase of large bottled water for use in water coolers.

While the cities of Seattle and San Francisco recently adopted similar policies, they were enacted by executive order and affect only their cities’ executive branches. King County’s legislation extends to all County agencies.

Read more about this legislation on the King County Council’s LEGISEARCH system.
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