Rim Fire: Bottled Water Industry Slams San Francisco

Categories: Fire, Government
Drinks on the house...
In a strong contender for most passive-aggressive press release of the year, the International Bottled Water Association this morning opted to gloat about San Francisco's threatened water supply. Its bizarre missive foretold a strange and dystopian future in which city employees will be forced to purchase their own bottled water or expire from thirst.

It demonstrates questionable marketing acumen to, in essence, mock the potential victims of a massive fire and burgeoning environmental calamity. It also indicates a near-total misunderstanding of how government works, and reveals a delusional worldview in which the worst imaginable outcome of the ruination of San Francisco's water supply is that someone working at City Hall would be forced to buy a bottle of water.

Here's the meat of the bottled water mavens' message:

Unfortunately, in 2007, San Francisco shortsightedly banned any city department or agency from using city funds to purchase bottled water.  The enacting rule, Executive Directive 07-07, provides no emergency waiver from this permanent ban.  Therefore, if municipal water supplies are suspended, city and county employees may be left without clean water in the workplace.  They would then likely be forced to purchase their own safe and reliable bottled water with their own funds, even when at work.

If only they could have bottled this...
You could write sillier and more misleading claptrap than the above, but probably not without mentioning Kenyan birth certificates. Here are a few things worth knowing:

  • Executive Directive 07-07 could be amended, altered, or superseded with the stroke of a pen;

  • The measured water quality of the Hetch Hetchy system remains identical to pre-fire "turbidity" levels. The Public Utilities Commission estimates San Francisco has a six-month supply of usable water on hand, with an ability to filter some of the potentially affected Hetch Hetchy water as needed;

  • A scenario in which "municipal water supplies are suspended" would render the city dry -- a far-fetched outcome, and one in which the plight of government officials forced to fork out for the odd bottle of water isn't high on anyone's priority list. 

Fear-mongering based on the notion that a misbegotten executive order will lead to a dry city and dry out parched city workers' bank accounts isn't just silly. It's dishonest. The emergency powers afforded to this city's mayor and Board are formidable.

A decade ago, in an impasse over mayoral appointments to the Planning Commission that left the body unable to meet for months, the Board declared a state of emergency and superseded the role of the Planning Commission. This is a situation somewhat less pressing than taps running dry. That's not likely going to happen -- but, if it did, the city wouldn't be haplessly barred from purchasing bottled water in a state of emergency, just as cops and ambulance drivers aren't necessitated to drive the speed limit during matters of life and death.

Of all erstwhile Mayor Gavin Newsom's feel-good, superficial, headline-grabbing "green" endeavors, preventing city departments from needlessly buying bottled water stands out as an actual decent idea. In this city we, literally, flush pristine Hetch Hetchy water down the toilet. That doesn't make much sense, but neither does wasting money and resources shipping bottled water to a place where it pales in comparison to the stuff coming out of the taps.

Benefiting the sorts of folks who'd disseminate this kind of material is one more reason to pray we never find ourselves in need of their services.

My Voice Nation Help

Could we PLEASE be a little more accurate and stop referring to SF's water source as Hetch Hetchy?  The source of SF's water is a river; it's named the Tuolumne River.  It's in the national wild and scenic river system.

Reservoirs don't create water; they simply capture and store it.  All together now ---- "San Francisco's Tuolumne River source of water".

Regards, John Muir

Damian Amberg
Damian Amberg

Uh, how many employers buy their employees bottled water??


it seems to me that SFWATER could do a really great spoof on this:  how many bottles of water it takes to flush a toilet, put out a fire, take a shower, etc. and houses filled with empty bottles.  then calculate the expense.

Rob Blomberg
Rob Blomberg

Bottled water? All set, thanks. The tap is just fine.

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