Obama-Era Effort to Ban Bottled Water at Parks Had 'Environmental Benefits,' Report Says

Bottled Water California
The man may have urinated in her water as many as 15 times. Steven Depolo/Flickr

An internal report by the National Park Service (NPS) found that an initiative led by the Obama administration to prohibit the sale of bottled water at some parks have reaped "significant environmental benefits," according to sources.

The report, created in May, was publicly disclosed as a response to a Freedom of Information Act request. The Obama-era policy met stern opposition from the bottled water industry and some Republicans, The Hill reported.

The document from NPS staff found that almost 1.32 million disposable bottles — and up to 2.01 million — were not purchased every year thanks to the policy enacted in 2011. As a result, the measure saved 111,742 pounds of plastic, curbed 141 million tons of carbon-dioxide equivalent greenhouse emissions and salvaged between 276 and 419 cubic yards of landfill space per year.

Saving between 1.32 million and 2.01 million plastic bottles per year attests the "significant positive environmental benefits that encompass the entire lifecycle of disposable plastic water bottle sales (DPWB SEPs)," the report added. "The policy further demonstrates the commitment of the NPS to environmental stewardship, to reducing the environmental footprint of the NPS, and to the concept of sustainability."

The report went on to say that other organizations have implemented bottle elimination efforts or are introducing initiatives that foster clean drinking water in reusable containers. Examples include programs such as Washington DC's water bottle refilling program, the Environmental Protection Agency's Materials Management Wizard and Detroit Zoo's bottled water elimination program, to name a few.

The 16-page document underscored that its original intent was to help NPS leaders understand the policy, yet "the bureau lacked the data necessary to ensure the Report's findings." But some lawmakers are using the report to support the restoration of such policy, which was rolled back by the Trump administration in August.

"This newly released report makes it clear as day that the Trump administration will continue to deny science, research, and facts in its efforts to prioritize big corporations at the expense of our wildlife and environment," The Hill cited a statement released by Democratic Representative Mike Quigley of Illinois. "We know that this is an issue where a simple and reasonable solution would have a profound impact as we work to preserve our pristine natural places."

Organizations such as the International Bottled Water Association fought the policy, arguing that it has deprived park visitors of healthy drink options. "The rescinded policy was seriously flawed," said Jill Culora, the association's spokeswoman, adding that the measure allowed the purchase of bottled sweetened drinks. In fact, NPS recognized this claim arguing that the policy "removed the healthiest beverage choice."

Each year, the beverage industry sells more than $11 billion of bottled water in the U.S., NPR reported citing an analysis by Beverage Digest.