Report finds NPS bottled water sales ban policy unwarranted, encourages unhealthy drink choices

International Bottled Water Association | MEDIA RELEASE | February 26, 2016

Report finds NPS bottled water sales ban policy unwarranted, encourages unhealthy drink choices

Alexandria, VA – The International Bottled Water Association (IBWA) today issued a detailed report to Congress on the National Park Service (NPS) policy that allows national parks to ban the sale of bottled water. IBWA’s report finds that the NPS bottled water sales ban policy is unwarranted, deprives consumers of access to the healthiest packaged beverage choice, and fails to meet its own specific monitoring, review, and evaluation requirements.

“IBWA reviewed and analyzed documents released by the NPS, as well as claims made by NPS park units and supporters of the sales ban policy. Our conclusion is that this policy arbitrarily singles out bottled water and cannot be justified,” said Joe Doss, IBWA President and CEO.

The 2011 NPS Policy Memorandum 11-03 allows individual national parks to ban the sale of bottled water in plastic containers. Due to the conflicting and incomplete information about the bottled water sales ban policy released to date, Congress directed the NPS to submit a report on the data it used to justify the sales bans in individual parks, no later than February 16, 2016. The NPS did not submit its report before that deadline.

Although the bottled water sales ban policy was ostensibly established to reduce plastic waste left behind by park visitors, people visiting the parks are still allowed to buy other consumer goods that are packaged in plastic, including sodas, sports drinks, teas, milk, beer, and wine. All of those products can still be purchased in plastic, glass, cans, and cardboard containers—but bottled water in plastic containers is not available.

Health, nutrition, and consumer interest groups, along with Congressional leaders, have expressed grave concerns about the policy banning the sales of bottled water. IBWA’s analysis shows:

  • The sales ban policy is inconsistent with other Administration priorities to promote water consumption and encourage healthy hydration and enjoyment of the National Park System.
  • No analysis was conducted by the individual parks (as required by the policy) to show that the bottled water sales ban would reduce waste disposal costs or increase recycling.
  • There is no evidence that the NPS is tracking the policy’s impacts on waste reduction, recycling, or the public’s health and safety.
  • The NPS and policy supporters are using incorrect data or, in some instances, no data to support implementation of the policy.

“This policy ignores the fact that the bottled water industry works hard to provide consumers with healthy hydration and promotes environmentally responsible packaging practices and recycling. Rather than continuing a discriminatory policy, IBWA recommends that Congress and the Administration overturn Policy Memorandum 11-03 as ineffective and not in the public interest. The NPS should then be directed to develop an effective and fair recycling program that uniformly, consistently, and comprehensively addresses the issues of waste disposal and/or littering of all products sold or brought into all the parks,” said Doss.

To learn more about bottled water, please visit IBWA’s website at

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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.