Q+A

Why is this bylaw important?
  • Bottled water has so many problems it is time to do something meaningful about it. The proposed bylaw is a modest and manageable step forward on this issue.
  • Bottled water doesn’t fit with our community values. We are a community of well-educated people who take the broader view and care about the impact of today’s choices. We cannot be tricked by clever marketing. And we are not willing to put convenience and individual freedom of choice ahead of our concerns about the consequences of bottled water.
  • A bylaw is the most effective way to address the problem. The voluntary measures and education campaign approved in 2011 have not had a meaningful impact. Studies on behavior change report that communities can invest significant resources in educational campaigns but achieve only limited success in bringing about the desired change.
  • We have the opportunity to set a legal precedent and inspire others to take action. By sending a town-approved bylaw to the attorney general for a full review, we will find out if we can do this in Concord, allowing us to guide and inspire communities in our state and other states.
 
Exactly what is and what is not included in the bylaw?
  • The bylaw refers to single-serve (1 liter or less) polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic containers of plain drinking water in all of its forms – spring, artesian, ground, mineral, purified, sterile and well. It does not apply to sparkling or flavored water, sports drinks (such as Gatorade, milk, juice, tea and soda). The bylaw also does not apply to drinking water in PET containers greater than 1 liter in size, or in other types of containers (such as paper and glass). Also, the bylaw refers only to single-serve bottled water sold in Concord, not bottled water given away.
 
Why does the article focus on single-serving bottles and not all bottled water?
  • Single-serve bottles are the ones usually purchased and have the greatest impact on the environment in terms of energy use, carbon dioxide emissions and pollution.
 
Why doesn’t the article focus on all beverages in plastic bottles?
  • Our focus is on bottled water because it is harmful and unnecessary, and inexpensive and well-regulated tap water is already readily available in Concord.
 
Won’t people just drink more soda if they can’t buy bottled water?
  • We all know that staying healthy is about food, drink and exercise choices – not about a single beverage decision. We are an active community. We carry reusable bottles and know how to balance calories in and out. And there are always plenty of healthy beverage options to choose from, including low-fat milk, juice and tap water. Bottled water companies want us to think we are bad parents if we remove single-serve bottled water as an option for our children. But we are not. When we steer our children to tap water at a water fountain or in a reusable bottle, we teach them to stay hydrated in a way that considers the broader impact of their choices. And, given the limited FDA testing of bottled water and the fact that toxic chemicals leach from the plastic into the water, we don’t consider bottled water to be a healthy choice, especially for our children.
 
Isn’t this just a recycling issue? What if we recycled all plastic water bottles?
  • We think recycling is great, but recycling only solves one of bottled water’s many problems. Remember the phrase “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” (in that order). We want to reduce the amount of bottled water to begin with, which solves all of the problems with bottled water. For other beverages sold in plastic bottles, recycling is a good option. Sadly, bottled water companies have fought proposed bottle deposit legislation across the country. They have hamstrung our state legislature for 15 years. We can help move things along by taking action now in our community.
 
Won’t this hurt our local businesses?
  • We expect this bylaw to have a very small impact on local businesses. Single-serve bottled water is just one of many hundreds of products they sell. Many businesses already provide tap water to customers. Businesses can continue to sell larger-sized plastic and other-type containers of drinking water as well as other beverages. And they can sell alternatives such as reusable bottles and even chilled and filtered Concord tap water. We encourage all Concord citizens to buy even more products locally with the money they save by not buying bottled water!
 
How much effort will it take to enforce the bylaw?
  • The recommended inspection is a spot-check to see if single-serve bottled water is being sold. We expect that it can be incorporated into the regular work of the town at no additional cost.
 
What are the legal aspects of the bylaw?
  • Article 32 establishes a bylaw that we believe is legal. The attorney general will perform her review after a positive vote at town meeting. The bottled water industry knows this and has spent thousands to influence our votes. Despite the bad publicity, they will continue to resist. We have already connected with legal organizations and believe that we will have pro bono support. We intend to see this through. But if it gets too expensive, we can suspend the bylaw.
 
Won’t people just go to neighboring towns to buy bottled water?
  • Some already do, and some will. With every reform, there will be people who don’t support it. That doesn’t mean we should not act on what we believe is important or believe we’ve failed if everyone doesn’t participate. Even those who continue to drink bottled water may change in ways that reduce their use. And we hope that other towns will follow our lead.
 
What if I don’t like the taste of the water at my house?
  • Please contact the Concord Water and Sewer (W/S) Division. If you taste chlorine, try filling a pitcher and placing it on the counter or in the fridge for a couple of hours before you drink your water. Or use a National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) certified water filter, but replace it regularly. Several taste tests have shown that many people can’t tell the difference between bottled water and tap water and don’t like the taste of bottled water better.
 
Where can citizens and tourists find tap water to drink?
  • Our well-regulated tap water is conveniently available in all homes, businesses and public buildings, at 11 public water fountains and at all restaurants. We plan to post a map at the Concord Visitor Center to direct our tourists to these convenient locations. And we can place “Concord on Tap” decals in restaurant/store windows to highlight tap water access points. We are also working to increase the number of water fountains in town.
 
What will happen if there is an emergency affecting water quality/availability?
  • The W/S Division will notify citizens within 24 hours of any confirmed water quality contamination that could pose a threat to public health and safety. A “boil water” directive may be issued. If the availability of water is an issue, the town has many sources to tap into and will distribute water at key places around town. Please note that water in plastic containers larger than 1 liter can always be purchased in town and the bottled water bylaw can be suspended during an emergency. Also note that supplies at local businesses will disappear quickly in an emergency and therefore are not part of the town’s Emergency Response Plan.
 
What are the benefits to our community?
  • The benefits are many – lower waste disposal costs, less pollution of town land and waterways and more enjoyment of them by our citizens and visitors, increased sales of alternative products, reduced exposure to the harmful chemicals in bottled water and more cash in our pockets from the savings. We will be a role model for taking a stand on an important issue and will inspire actions in communities across the nation and around the world.

Supporters