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Rocky battles the bottle (of water)

By Rosemary Winters,  December 15, 2006  Salt Lake Tribune

SALT LAKE CITY —Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is still refining his lean, green city-government machine. His new target: bottled water.Anderson has asked city staff – he says it’s voluntary – to stop buying individually sized water bottles for public meetings and office events. He sent the City Council a copy of the message.

The production of plastic water bottles consumes more than 10 million barrels of oil annually and 8 of 10 of those bottles wind up in the landfill, Anderson told his department heads in a memo.

Add to that the amount of fossil fuel consumed by transporting bottled water from places as far flung as Fiji, and those little bottles pose a big problem.

“One has to wonder why anyone would transport French or Swiss water for consumption in Salt Lake City,” Anderson wrote, noting that Salt Lake City’s tap water is clean and safe. “As leaders in our community, we must support activities that do not diminish local resources, waste taxpayers’ money or unnecessarily add to the production of dangerous greenhouse gases.”

Patrick Thronson, Anderson’s spokesman, said the Mayor’s Office has not been checking up on departments to see whether the initiative – it was issued last month – is being implemented.

At a meeting Wednesday, members of the city’s planning staff were seen passing out bottles of water to the Planning Commission. Anderson’s memo did not go to the commissioners.

For their part, the mayor’s staffers are drinking from glasses and carafes at meetings. The Public Utilities Department is ordering reusable water bottles emblazoned with the slogan “only tap water delivers” for its 400 employees.

Drinking from the tap also saves money. For the average price of a 16-ounce bottle of water, the city can deliver 750 gallons straight to your kitchen sink, said Jeff Niermeyer, Salt Lake City’s deputy director of public utilities.

“We know we deliver a great product [in Salt Lake City]. . . . There’s very elaborate testing that’s required,” Niermeyer said.

Bob Sasser, chief executive of Park City-based Wasatch IceWater Co., agreed that plastic water bottles piling up in the landfill are a huge problem. That’s why his company sells water in collapsible bottles. One truckload of his bottles contains as much as 27 truckloads of conventional 16-ounce bottles, Sasser said.

But as to quality and taste, Sasser said his water has the city beat.

“Our water comes from a well that is high in the mountains that’s never been circulated. . . . [It ] has never been chlorinated,” Sasser said. “I’m not a big fan of drinking chlorine or any of the chemicals they have to put in to purify water.”

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