San Francisco Bill Would Require Water Bottle Filling Stations

Published August 6, 2012

San Francisco Board of Supervisors President David Chiu has introduced legislation that would require building owners who are required to have water drinking fountains to provide bottled water refill stations as well. 

Reducing Use of Plastic

The legislation offered June 26 is designed to enable people to keep using, or recycling, plastic water bottles already in their possession, instead of tossing them away. 

“Every 27 hours, Americans consume enough bottled water to circle the entire equator with plastic bottles stacked end to end,” said Chiu in a press statement. 

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission and the city’s Department of the Environment support Chiu’s bill, and it is being billed as a way to enhance public health while reducing plastic waste. Its backers say the filling-station requirement would save consumers money by giving them access to the city’s supply of water from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 

If approved by the Board of Supervisors, the requirement would take effect next year.

San Francisco has been at war with plastic for years. The City by the Bay was the first municipality in the nation to ban plastic bags at supermarkets and chain drugstores. In 2007, then-Mayor Gavin Newsom issued a directive prohibiting the city’s departments from buying bottled water.

Uncertain Benefits

Environmental stewardship may motivate San Francisco’s war on plastic, but the environmental benefits of such a crusade are far from certain.

“These proposed regulations are expansive and have no environmental benefits,” said Angela Logomasini, director of risk studies at the Washington-based Competitive Enterprise Institute. “After all, if people want to drink tap water, all they have to do is find a sink with a faucet.

“Instead, many people choose bottled water because they find it convenient and sanitary and they prefer the taste,” Logomasini explained. “Try as they may, local officials, eager to impose their agenda on the citizenry, will never succeed in altering people’s preferences. What they will do is raise the cost of constructing and renovating buildings.”

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph. D., ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.