Alex Beauchamp is the Northeast Region Director at Food & Water Watch. Based in the Brooklyn office, Alex oversees all organizing efforts in New York and the Northeast. Alex has worked on issues related to fracking, factory farms, genetic engineering, and water privatization at Food & Water Watch since 2009. His background is in legislative campaigning, and community and electoral organizing. Before joining Food & Water Watch, Alex worked for Grassroots Campaigns, Inc., where he worked on several campaigns including organizing support for renewable energy in Colorado, fundraising, and running get-out-the-vote operations. Alex graduated from Carleton College with a degree in political science. He can be reached at abeauchamp(at)fwwatch(org).
Alex Beauchamp Speech: Starts 42:09 – 49:11
7 October 2014
Public Comments on the Proposed Sale of Water to Niagara Bottling Company
To the Kingston Common Council:
My name is Alex Beauchamp, and I’m the Northeast Region Director of Food & Water Watch, a national non profit that fights for our most basic resources – the things, like water, we cannot live without. I want to thank you for allowing me to speak.
I’m here today to urge you to oppose the sale of water to the California-headquarted Niagara Bottling Company, the “largest private label bottled water supplier in the U.S.”, according its own website.[i] The proposal would allow the company to withdraw as much as 1.75 million gallons of water a day from municipal sources, which could increase the Town of Kingston’s water use by about 40 percent,[ii] and potentially impact the water level of Cooper Lake and affect connected surface and groundwaters. As explained in a U.S. Geological Survey report, “changes in the natural interaction of ground water and surface water caused by human activities can potentially have a significant effect on aquatic environments.”[iii]
Water bottlers’ pumping operations can harm the environment and natural resources that communities may rely on for local farming or residential recreation. In fact, after Nestlé began pumping groundwater from a Michigan aquifer, water flows in connected surface waters fell to the point that mud flats developed.[iv] When bottled water companies tap water sources they do not replenish what they pump out.[v] This differentiates water bottlers from local irrigation and agricultural water users, who do return water.[vi]
In a drought this proposal could even affect the New York City water supply. This is not a theoretical threat, Cooper Lake faced drought conditions just a couple years ago in 2012 and they had to tap into New York City’s supply, the Ashokan Reservoir, until conditions improved.[vii] Folks in the Catskills and Hudson Valley know better than most that water is essential to life. The question we must ask ourselves is whether we are willing to put our most essential resource at risk. But the impacts of the proposal go far beyond Cooper Lake.
Bottled water poses huge threats to our environment – both here in Kingston and around the globe. The production of bottled water causes significant equity and environmental problems. These include taking water from communities that depend on it, polluting the environment during the production of plastic, contributing to global warming by transporting bottled water over great distances and irresponsibly disposing of billions of empty bottles.
The industry uses a significant quantity of petroleum and energy just to manufacture the billions of plastic bottles consumed in the United States each year.[viii] In 2007 researchers from the Pacific Institute found that bottled water consumption in the United States had the energy input equivalent of between 32 and 54 million barrels of oil – enough to fuel between 1.2 and 2.1 million cars over the course of a year.[ix] They also found that the manufacture, production and transportation of bottled water is 1,100 to 2,000 times as energy intensive as the treatment and distribution of tap water.[x]
At a more fundamental level, water is a public good, not a private commodity. We all depend on it, and the citizens of this region have paid for the existing water infrastructure with an eye toward providing safe, clean, affordable tap water for the benefit of everyone. Bottled water companies like Niagara Bottling Company profit off this public resource through false advertising and selling tap water in overpriced, health damaging, and environmentally polluting plastic bottles. Even worse, the proposal under consideration actually allows Niagara Bottling Company to pay less for this water than individual taxpayers, who own the system, do. Of course, we know that Niagara will sell the water at an enormous markup. Food & Water Watch has found that bottled water can be up to 2,400 times more expensive than tap water, making it an enormous waste of money for consumers.
Recent growth in Kingston shows that the natural amenities are important economic assets: taxpayers and businesses. Folks move and stay in this region for the amazing quality of life, and clean abundant water is at the heart of that. The concept of “surplus” water referred to in the proposal is not relevant here. Cooper Lake belongs to the entire community, and it must not put it at risk for a quick buck. Companies like Niagara bottling know they can come to communities to exploit their need for revenue, but to give in to this would be short sighted.
Once again, I urge you to protect Cooper Lake, our public health, our environment, and our climate by opposing the proposal to sell water to Niagara Bottling Company. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “When the well is dry, we know the worth of water.”
Thank you again for allowing the public to speak out at this meeting.
Northeast Region Director
Food & Water Watch
[i] Niagara Water. [Website.] Accessed October 7, 2014, available at http://www.niagarawater.com/
[ii] Nani, James. “Kingston studies supplying Niagra Bottling with water.” Times Herald-Record. September 10, 2014.
[iii] Winter, T.C. et al. U.S. Department of the Interior. U.S. Geological Survey. “Ground Water and Surface Water. A Single Source.” U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1139. U.S. Government Printing Office. 1998 at vii.
[iv] Madigan, Kate. PIRGIM Education Fund. “Left Out to Dry: How Michigan Citizens Pay the Price for Unregulated Water Use.” September 2005 at 13.
[v] Boldt-Van Rooy, Tara. ““Bottling Up” Our Natural Resources: The Fight Over Bottled Water Extraction in the United States.” Journal of Land Use, vol. 18, iss.2, Spring 2003 at 279 and 280.
[vi] Boldt-Van Rooy, Tara. ““Bottling Up” Our Natural Resources: The Fight Over Bottled Water Extraction in the United States.” Journal of Land Use, vol. 18, iss.2, Spring 2003 at 279 and 280.
[vii] Smith, Jesse J. “Kingston’s all dried out.” Kingston Times. September 13, 2012; Kirby, Paul. “Water level in Kingston’s drought – stricken Cooper Lake reservoir up slightly.” Daily Freeman. September 24, 2012.
[viii] Gleick, P.H., and H.S. Cooley. “Energy implications of bottled water.” Environmental Research Letters. February 19, 2009) at 1 to 3; “2011 State of the Industry.” Beverage World. April 2011 at S11.
[ix] Food & Water Watch Calculation, based on data from: Gleick, P.H., and H.S. Cooley. “Energy implications of bottled water.” Environmental Research Letters. February 19, 2009 at 6; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Office of Transportation and Air Quality. “Average Annual Emissions and Fuel Consumption for Gasoline-Fueled Passenger Cars and Light Trucks.” (EPA420-F-08-024.) October 2008 at 4; U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). Energy Information Administration (EIA). “Frequently Asked Questions – Conversion Equivalents.” Available at http://www.eia.gov/tools/faqs/faq.cfm?id=24&t=6. Accessed February 22, 2012.
[x] Gleick, P.H., and H.S. Cooley. “Energy implications of bottled water.” Environmental Research Letters. February 19, 2009 at 6.