NEW YORK – The nation's mayors voted Monday against spending taxpayer money to buy bottled water, a blow to the beverage industry that has enjoyed growing profit from water sales in recent years.
A majority of about 250 mayors at the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami voted to phase out government use of bottled water. That means attendees of city council meetings around the country could more often see pitchers of water instead of clear plastic bottles on the tables of local legislators.
An industry group called the move "sound-bite environmentalism," while activists cheered it.
The vote is the latest salvo against an industry that includes PepsiCo Inc.'s Aquafina, The Coca-Cola Co.'s Dasani and Nestle Waters North America's many brands, which included Poland Spring and Deer Park.
"A few mayors have chosen sound-bite environmentalism over sound public policy in their zeal to appease liberal activist groups that are pedaling misinformation about bottled water," said Kevin Keane, a senior vice president of the industry's American Beverage Association.
Corporate Accountability International said in a statement that cities spend about $70 million a year to dispose of plastic water bottles. The group's Gigi Kellett said, "It's just plain common sense for cities to stop padding the bottled water industry's bottom line at taxpayer expense."
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom wrote the resolution. Newsom was joined by 17 sponsors, including New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Leading up to the vote, more than 60 mayors around the country had taken some measures to reduce or eliminate bottled water use, Corporate Accountability said. Most recently, the cities of San Jose, Calif., Miami and Orlando, Fla., decided to phase out bottled water.
A number of prominent celebrity chefs, including Alice Waters of Chez Panisse and Mario Batali of Babbo, have banned bottled water, too, and instead switched to tap water.
Critics of bottled water point to the energy wasted in production of plastic bottles and the shipping process. Bottled water consumption has been growing at double-digit rates. The mayor's resolution claims the industry is already $15 billion in size.
Bottled water became popular as consumers sought convenient yet healthier alternatives to sodas. Environmentalists and now mayors, who want to protect the reputation of tap water that comes from municipal water systems, have pushed back.