There are very few reasons for Hamiltonians to buy bottled water. The water coming out of the tap is safe, clean and has the test results to prove it.
Given that fact, the city and all public or semi-public agencies ought to do as much as they can to encourage the community to stop wasting its money on a packaged and marketed version of something that they can get cheaper and better though the public utility system.
There needs to be an investment in installing, or in some cases, reinstalling water fountains and reusable bottle filling stations in parks, schools, arenas, community centres, stadiums — anywhere the public gathers. If drinking city water is made more convenient, it will remove one of the main excuses people have for shelling out for plastic bottles of the stuff.
In a perfect world drinking bottled water would be looked upon as something akin to smoking: a dirty little secret that is socially discouraged at every turn.
However, as ludicrous as it is to be buying overpriced H2O, governments should only go so far in restricting its sale as the city has proposed to do within its facilities.
In other words: don’t ban the bottle.
As much as buying bottled water might be an ill-informed choice, it is an individual choice and governments need to accept that.
Governments tend to get themselves in trouble when they try to force societal changes through regulation and legislation while adopting a paternalistic attitude that dismisses the concerns of their citizens with a fake smile, a pat on the head and a condescending “we know best.”
No one likes to feel ignored on an issue that’s important to them, even if the evidence to support their opinions is flimsy at best. They believe that their concerns are just as valid as the next persons and blithely brushing them aside only ends up alienating them.
Banning things makes governments look decisive, like they’re taking action for the good of the people, but when the people disagree, it can lead to a huge backlash that brings in sweeping change in government that simply lifts the ban to great acclaim.
However, there is a better way.
In 1965 almost half of Canadians smoked, in 2011 it was under 20 percent. While anti-smoking laws and high taxes played a part, it was the relentless and effective public information campaign undertaken by both governments and pressure groups that changed the most minds. The drop didn’t occur over night, but it has proven to be a true change in attitude by Canadians.
The same could happen with bottled water consumption, but instead of being a torrent of change, it’ll be a slow dip.