May 02, 2008

U.S. Conference of Mayors Meets to Discuss Value of Municipal Water

Cities investigate the economic and health benefits of public investment in clean water, water infrastructure

The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently convened a joint meeting of the Mayors Water Council and the Municipal Waste Management Association, an environmental affiliate of the Conference, in New York City to examine new information on the economic and public health benefits of local government investment in municipal water and sewer infrastructure and services.

Albuquerque, N.M., Mayor Martin Chavez and Fayetteville, Ark., Mayor Dan Coody, co-chairs of the Mayors Water Council, were joined by Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, Mayor Don Robart, vice-chair of the Mayors Environment Committee, in leading the discussion. The mayors assembled a series of panels including environmental, sanitation and water commissioners from several U.S. cities, water experts and bottled water industry leaders.

The meeting was held in response to a municipal water resolution adopted in June of 2007 at The U.S. Conference of Mayors Annual Meeting in Los Angeles. The resolution, titled “The Importance of Municipal Water,” directed the Conference of Mayors to compile data on the importance of local government investment in municipal water and sewers and to examine how bottled water contributes to solid waste.

A growing number of cities such as San Francisco, Albuquerque, Minneapolis and Seattle have adopted bans on the purchase of single-serve bottled water by their city departments since 2007, citing concerns about the cost of bottled water and its impact on city budgets, as well as bottled water’s contribution to solid waste:
• Even the cheapest bottled water from city retailers and grocery stores can cost from 1,000 to over 4,000 more times per unit volume than municipal tap water.
• Recycling rates of PET plastic, the petroleum-based material used to produce most water bottles, has declined over the past decade while bottle water consumption has risen considerably.
• While water bottles make up a relatively small proportion of the entire solid waste stream, they amounted to over 827,000 tons of scrap PET in 2006.

The Cadmus Group Inc., working in concert with the Mayors Water Council, found that investing in drinking water and sewer systems only yields positive returns. While the returns vary depending on existing local infrastructure, generally a $1 increase in spending on water and sewer infrastructure yields a savings of as much as $2.62. Cadmus’ research also shows that adding one job in water and sewer services on the local level can lead to 3.68 jobs in the national economy to support that one water or sewer related job.

Representatives from the American Beverage Association and the International Bottled Water Association attended the session and presented new information on industry efforts to reduce the amount of materials used in plastic water bottles and water conservation in bottled water production processes.