Why Would the U.S. Government Serve Bottled Water at the Presidential Inauguration?
With the United States presidential election just months away, inauguration planning is already in full swing. Decorators have been called. Bands have been short-listed. And the catering? Well, at least one part of the food and beverage selection seems to have already been decided. On the menu? Saratoga Spring Water, bottled water that will be brought in from out of state. Why not instead offer local tap water that thousands of residents in the nation's capital already drink? Excellent question.
Peter Gleick, author of Bottled and Sold, writes that chairman of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inauguration Ceremonies Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) has explicitly stated that bottled water will be served at the official event. Moreover, Senator Schumer balked at the very idea that serving bottled water was somehow strange, noting that tap water would also be available. Gleick rightfully asks: Will inauguration attendees have to go looking for it? Will pitchers of DC's clean, drinkable tap water be sitting on serving tables or carried by wait staff alongside the plastic bottles? Based on Senator Schumer's reluctance to even address the issue, it seems unlikely.
Of course, the municipal water and sewer authority DC Water would like a little vote of confidence from the government and constituents they serve. It only makes sense to keep the water source local. DC Water General Manager George S. Hawkins told The Washington Post, "DC tap water is a penny per gallon and bottled water costs 100 times more." Hawkins even offered to provide refillable bottles and free water testing in Congressional buildings.
What to do? For now, not much. Schumer has dug in his heels, refusing to take up Hawkins' offer, and probably won't budge until this issue gets wider attention.
Sign the Change.org pledge and send a note to your Congressional representative. Refusing to serve municipal water at the inauguration not only sends the wrong message about the value of public services, especially tap water. It commodifies water, a basic human right, and will create a mountain of plastic waste that could easily be avoided.