While Telling Residents to Turn to the Tap, NYC Gov Spends $1.2 Million a Year on Bottled Water

There's been a lot of noise made about ditching bottled water and turning to the tap in New York and New York City. Governor David Patterson issued a directive for state agencies to stop buying bottled water, certain departments have announced plans to forego it completely, and Mayor Bloomberg has implemented a variety of initiatives aimed at educating the public about the benefits of tap water and making more public drinking fountains available. An ad campaign in the city urging New Yorkers to drink from the tap cost $700,000. So why is the city still spending $1.2 on bottled water a year?

The New York Times' City Page explains:

That's chump change in a $63 billion budget, and a chunk of the bottled water budget pays for individual containers that are stockpiled to be distributed during emergencies. Also, some of the municipal offices, like the Board of Elections, that buy the water are not mayoral agencies. And the biggest water contract, with Nestlé Waters North America, is not for individual bottles, but for jugs of water that fit atop coolers, which the city rents for $1.97 a month for each machine.

So comparatively, the amount of actual bottled water purchased for city offices is low -- but there's still the symbolic factor to take into account: If the government is devoting large sums to marketing campaigns urging constituents not to buy bottled water, and then is itself spending nearly twice that buying bottled water itself, it doesn't exactly bode well for the initiative.

And while you can argue the importance of a government practicing what it preaches -- many more people saw the pro-tap water ads than follow the city's budget expenditures -- it still seems worthwhile to me to attempt to make a much more meaningful statement by eradicating all but the emergency provisioned bottled water. After all, the whole point of said marketing campaign was to remind New Yorkers that their water tastes great right out of the tap: If that's the case, it should be good enough for city officials to drink, no?

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