Testimony on SB-753: “An Act Concerning the Viability of Expanding the Bottled Water Industry in Connecticut” (OPPOSED):
Dear Senator Kennedy, Senator Miner, Representative Demicco, and Environment Committee Members:
On behalf of our 3,000 supporters, Save Our Water CT would like to thank the Committee for taking up the is of water bottling. The fact that the bill has been raised indicates that the Committee recognizes this as a state-wide issue. However, Save Our Water CT opposes the concept of a mere “Study Bill,” which would preempt urgently needed substantive action now:
• SB-753 would authorize a STUDY plan, not due until Feb 2018. There are no assurances that
meaningful action would ever be taken. There will be NO oversight of the bottled water industry while
reports are being written. A study bill announces open season for corporate raids on CT water.
• The state remains in a severe drought, which could become record-breaking by next summer. Now is
NOT the time to be studying the expansion of the bottled water industry in CT. According to the
US Drought Monitor for Jan 2017, 100% of the state remains in drought, with 41% in extreme drought and 78% in severe or extreme drought. Residents are being asked to conserve water and areas of southwestern CT and central CT are receiving emergency transfers of water. Despite some recent “normal” amounts of precipitation, our deficits over the past 3 years have not been reduced.
What will happen this spring and summer to crops, rivers, and residents?
• Our state drought plans do not include any intermediate triggers - so they offer no way to prioritize
water usage or protect residents and essential services during droughts. Only when the state’s largest
reservoirs reach the disastrous level of 10% of their storage capacity will our commissioner of public
health have the authority to order mandatory restrictions on the state’s largest water bottler, Niagara
Bottling. At that point, all industrial and residential use will be similarly affected. We need to halt the
production of bottled water that’s sent out of a stressed watershed or out of state at the very start of
voluntary conservation, unless a public health emergency requires it. We urgently need a revision of our
drought protection plans before allowing any expansion of the water bottling industry.
• Do we have enough water? The state water plan has now presented evidence that certain watersheds in the state contain more registered water diversions than water. During a recent Water Utility Coordinating Committee meeting, the vast majority of water utilities stated they expect to need more water within 5 years. Stream flow regulations, guaranteeing enough water for our state’s aquatic environment, are only now being implemented. Water supply plans have been shielded from public view and there is no indication that projections for precipitation and temperature changes due to climate change have been included. We need to establish renewable permitting for large water bottlers to ensure that state’s drinking water supplies, its agriculture, and its aquatic environments are protected now and in the future.
• Without immediate action to provide some oversight of the water bottling industry, our state public
trust waters are at risk of being sold off to corporate super-users at a discount. Discounts to super-
users promote over-use and contradict the conservation ethic of both the state plan of conservation an
ddevelopment and the state water plan. Should we all be turning off the water while brushing our teeth
while hundreds of millions of gallons of Grade A drinking water are heading out of state for corporate
profit? Declining block-rates for water should be re-examined now.
• CT residents have paid for the state’s water infrastructure. We are one of only 2 states in which
drinking water comes only from the purest sources, never from water that has previously been used.
The water bottling industry has already sought to take our municipal water while evading its fair share
of the costs. Niagara Bottling negotiated a deal to cut almost 80% of its Clean Water Project charges
once it uses over 500,000 gallons of water/day - a charge paid to fund infrastructure to keep the CT
River and L.I. Sound clean. After public outcry, the MDC wisely rescinded the ordinance codifying this
deal for 2017. But there’s no guarantee those discounts will be resurrected in the future. If anything,
our state could benefit from a surcharge on water bottling to cover its share of water infrastructure
costs- and from an increased bottle deposit fee to fund additional recycling efforts. Let’s not
shortchange our state economy.
• SB 753 mentions many worthwhile considerations, but omits explicitly mentioning legitimate issues
that need to be addressed. In particular, certain environmental and quality-of-life impacts are not
mentioned, including the effect of increased use of water for bottling on stream flows and aquifers,
increased pollution and noise from truck traffic, road wear and tear, chemicals used in the manufacture of plastic bottles, as well as the millions of additional plastic bottles added to the waste stream. About
60% of bottles with deposits are re-cycled – but 40% are not. Large water bottling plants - such as Niagara’s existing plants that operate 4 lines – can produce over 10 million bottles per day. For such plants, on average, 4 million bottles per day are not recycled – instead ending up in land fills and in our environment.
Study alone is essentially a call to INACTION for two more years. We need thoughtful, reasonable,
action NOW, as presented in several bills that have been introduced and that deserve a hearing:
• HB-6349 Drought Protection
• HB-6341 Permits for Large Water Bottlers
• HB-6319 Water Rates for Water Bottlers
• HB-6342 Uniform Clean Water Project Charge Rates
• HB-5619 Regulation of Bottled Water in CT
These bills would provide critical pieces of action needed to ensure the prudent management of our state’s valuable water resources. Among these are:
• Establishing prioritizations for water usage during declared droughts
• Ensuring that water rates for large-scale water bottlers in the state are not lower than rates for residential customers
• Providing for the uniform assessment of the “clean water project charges” of the Metropolitan District Commission
• Requiring a permit for large-scale bottling operations, except when such bottling operations are required to meet a public health emergency. If these bills are not raised for a public hearing,the substantive protections contained in them must be included in SB-753.
Again, thank you for raising this issue and for your consideration.
SAVE OUR WATER CT
(submitted by Paula Jones)
Save Our Water CT
Citizen advocates acting to protect and conserve Connecticut's public trust waters.