Unbottle Water Campaign

Fights over public water are popping up around the United States and beyond—from struggles to ensure clean water access to efforts to secure public water sources and systems against privatization efforts. With no significant progressive, large-scale solution proposed to answer to the profound underinvestment in public water infrastructure—water ownership and systems are largely municipal scale—these local fights are where decisions about water policy are currently taking place.

Water privatization happens when private corporations buy or operate public water utilities, and it is often presented as a solution to city budget problems and water systems that need updates and repairs. Unfortunately, this more often backfires, leaving communities with higher rates, worse service, job losses, and even poorer quality of water. When water systems are privatized, local government officials give control of one of the most important public resources. This leads to a loss of public accountability and input, and even a conflict of public interest. (Learn more).

The rise of the water bottling industry is an extension of privatization. This industry benefits by driving a wedge between the public and its local tap water, despite the fact that in places like the United States, the tap water is some of the safest and healthiest water in the world. And almost everyone can access it for just a tiny fraction of the price of a bottle of water. Despite the facts, the industry has led a successful marketing campaign and sales continue to rise.

However, individuals and local groups around the United States and Canada have been fighting back against multinational corporations like Nestlé Waters that buy off land and permits to spring water in rural areas for bottling. These corporations are known to disregard local drought conditions and draw water beyond ecosystems’ limits.

Over the past two years, the Story of Stuff Project has provided increasingly sophisticated support to community groups around the United States fighting to protect public water sources from the aggressive efforts of companies like Nestlé Waters to secure new sources of water for bottling. From San Bernardino, California, to Oregon’s Columbia River Gorge and from Mecosta County, Michigan, to Elora, Ontario, Canada, we’re partnering with local citizens to protect public access to water and reduce plastic waste.

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