Bottled Water Should be Available as the Healthy Choice Beverage in all of America’s National Parks

International Bottled Water Association | MEDIA RELEASE | April 23, 2015

Bottled Water Should be Available as the Healthy Choice Beverage in all of America’s National Parks

Alexandria, VA – This spring and summer, Americans and travelers from around the world will visit our country’s amazing network of national parks. Whether hiking along soaring peaks or backpacking through deep ravines, guests will find that the National Park Service (NPS) is the custodian of some of the greatest treasures in the United States. However, if visitors at some of America’s national parks find themselves thirsty, they may be surprised to discover that only calorie-rich, sugary beverages are stocked at the on-site concession stands. That’s because the NPS allows parks to ban the sale of bottled water.

In a letter delivered today, more than 360 bottled water industry representatives from across the country urged the NPS to end the ban on the sale of bottled water in many of its national park units and “respectfully request[ed] that [the NPS] provide an opportunity for meaningful dialogue between our industry and the NPS in order to work together to ensure the health, wellness, and safety of visitors to the national parks, in a manner consistent with NPS’s mission to preserve the resources and values of the national parks for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of today’s and future generations.”

In their letter to NPS, the bottled water representatives noted that “banning the sale of bottled water in the parks is very difficult to reconcile with the NPS’s Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative and its efforts to encourage more healthy food and beverage choices in the parks.” The letter also pointed out that “[r]esearch shows that when bottled water isn’t available, 63 percent of people will choose soda or another sugary drink.”

“A ban on the sale of bottled water at the parks simply makes no sense,” said Chris Hogan, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association (IBWA). “Efforts to eliminate or reduce access to bottled water in our national parks will lead to consumers defaulting to less-healthy drink options that have more packaging, more sugar, and greater environmental impacts than bottled water.

Some national parks provide visitors with access to tap water, which is an important and healthful hydration option, but IBWA promotes all avenues to healthy hydration. If consumers choose bottled water—whether for its refreshing taste, reliable quality, zero calories and additives, or convenience—they should have access to it wherever other packaged beverages are sold. Since 1998, approximately 73 percent of the growth in bottled water consumption among consumers has come from people switching from carbonated soft drinks, juices, and milk to bottled water. Results from a recent Harris Poll showed that 96 percent of Americans believe that we should be drinking more water. Thus, it is more important than ever that bottled water be available wherever packaged beverages are sold, Mr. Hogan said.

Promoting greater consumption of water from all sources, including bottled water, will support the efforts of park visitors striving for a healthier and active lifestyle and bolster the parks’ current Healthy Parks Healthy People initiative. In addition, by making water available in all forms—tap and bottled—the parks will encourage more people to drink more water. That strategy is in line with the Drink Up initiative, an important effort from the Partnership for a Healthier America and First Lady Michelle Obama that encourages all Americans to drink more water more often. IBWA has been an active supporter of Drink Up since it launched in September 2013, he said.

In today’s on-the-go society, most of what we drink comes in a package. Thus, these misguided bans on the sale of bottled water are not likely to reduce the presence of plastic bottles within the recycling streams of our national parks. And we shouldn’t forget that bottled water’s environmental footprint is the lowest of any packaged beverage, according to a life cycle assessment conducted by Quantis in 2010. Bottled water has the smallest water and energy use footprint of any packaged beverage. The results of a 2014 benchmarking study show that the amount of water and energy used to produce bottled water products in North America is less than all other types of packaged beverages. On average, only 1.32 liters of water (including the liter of water consumed) and 0.24 mega joules of energy are used to produce one liter of finished bottled water. This compares with soft drinks, which use 2.02 liters of water to produce one liter of product, Mr. Hogan said.

As the NPS prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2016, the bottled water industry would like to work with the parks to encourage visitors to pursue a healthy lifestyle and to help ensure that visitors have a positive experience during their visits to the parks. To accomplish that goal, NPS needs to engage in an open dialogue with visitors, the bottled water industry, and its concession partners about the importance of the availability of water—both tap and bottled—at the parks, and how to provide visitors with access to both sources of water in a way that continues to protect the environmental values of the parks, he said.

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Media Contact:
Jill Culora
[email protected]

The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) is the authoritative source of information about all types of bottled waters, including spring, mineral, purified, artesian, and sparkling. Founded in 1958, IBWA’s membership includes U.S. and international bottlers, distributors and suppliers. IBWA is committed to working with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates bottled water as a packaged food product, to set comprehensive and stringent standards for safe, high-quality bottled water products.  

In addition to FDA regulations, IBWA member bottlers must adhere to the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice, which mandates additional standards and practices that in some cases are more stringent than federal and state regulations. A key feature of the IBWA Bottled Water Code of Practice is a mandatory annual plant inspection by an independent, third-party organization.  

IBWA is proud to be a partner with Keep America Beautiful and a supporter of Drink Up, an initiative of former First Lady Michelle Obama and the Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA), which encourages Americans to drink more water more often – whether from the tap, a filter, or in a bottle. Choosing water is always the healthy choice.