Single-use water bottles clog landfills. Bottled water corporations take what should be a publicly available resource and sell it for profit.
More than a year ago, the Saskatoon chapter of the Council of Canadians asked its city council to consider becoming a Blue Community, including banning the sale of bottled water in city facilities. The request prompted a review of the city’s ability to provide public tap water in municipal facilities – and the results were not positive.
Saskatoon municipal staff recently delivered a report rejecting the proposal to ban bottled water, revealing that municipal facilities such as arenas and recreation centres do not have adequate water fountains and refilling stations to meet users’ needs. The Saskatoon chapter’s request put a clear spotlight on the question of access to public water.
“We believe that access to affordable clean water is a human right and it should be in the public sphere,” said Dave Greenfield, a member of the Saskatoon chapter told the CBC. “You have companies taking water and bottling it and selling it for a price that’s a lot higher than what you would normally be paying for just water out of a tap. It creates a mentality that we somehow supposedly need water out of a bottle,” he said.
According to the CBC, members of Saskatoon’s environment committee voiced “disappointment with the lack of water filling stations at any of the city’s hockey rinks and a less-than-ideal spread of stations and water fountains in other buildings.” They noted that even newly built buildings did not provide an abundance of water fountains and filling stations.
The mayor said the city should be looking into water bottle filling options so people aren’t left trying to figure out how to fill water bottles in bathroom sinks, which are not practical.
The CBC reported that councillors also called on the city to list the buildings where fill stations and fountains could be replaced. The committee passed a motion to keep the question of banning bottled water on the table.
City staff estimate that city-owned facilities in Saskatoon fall short by 30 water stations. Staff also cited contracts with bottled water vendors as a reason a ban cannot be implement.
Greenfield questioned this rationale. “If it’s a question of contracts that have already been signed, presumably they would come up for renewal at some point, so I think rethinking the kinds of agreements they get into would be a good idea,” he said.
City staff agreed that contract timelines “could be used as a rationale for planning the phased delivery of new water stations.” They also suggested the city could take on an education campaign encouraging people to use tap water instead of buying bottled water.
Congratulations to the Saskatoon chapter for pushing its city council to reexamine its commitments to access to public water!
The Blue Communities Project encourages municipalities and Indigenous communities to support the idea of a water commons framework, recognizing that water is a shared resource for all, by passing resolutions that:
Recognize water and sanitation as human rights.
Ban or phase out the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.
Promote publicly financed, owned, and operated water and wastewater services.
Read more about the Blue Communities Project and how you can turn your community “blue.”