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What’s Happening With Bottled Water in Washington?

“Bottled water” as defined by the bill includes plastic bottles, glass bottles, jugs, or similar containers, as well as products marketed as “spring water” and “enhanced waters.”

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Washington could become the first U.S. state to limit bottled water companies from tapping into local supply. 

The state Senate passed a bill on Monday that would ban companies from seeking new permits to use natural water for bottling, which the bill calls “detrimental to the public welfare and the public interest.” The bill passed on a party-line vote, with the Republican minority opposed, and will become law if the rest of Washington’s Democratic-run government approves it, the Wall Street Journal reported

The potential restriction applies to companies tapping into spring water sources, not to the actual bottles themselves. Nonetheless, the measure underscores the work of activists who have been raising more awareness of single-use plastic pollution around the world. The bottled water industry is also projected to grow to more than $24 billion by 2023, according to Beverage Industry magazine.

“Bottled water” as defined by the Washington bill includes plastic bottles, glass bottles, jugs, or similar containers, as well as products marketed as “spring water” and “enhanced waters.” The limitation does not apply in some cases, such a state of emergency, drought, or other public health emergency in which public water service is unavailable. 

Washington’s state ban, if approved, would apply retroactively to permits that companies pursued after January 1, 2019. The state’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee, also a former presidential candidate, is reportedly following the legislation “but hasn’t yet taken a position.”

Environmental groups have praised the state for “carving the path towards a groundbreaking solution.” “This legislation … would ban one of the worst corporate water abuses – the extraction of local water supplies in plastic bottles shipped out of watersheds and around the country,” Mary Grant, Food & Water Action’s public water director, told the Guardian.

This isn’t the only legislative restriction in the U.S. on bottling groundwater or taxing the industry. Lawmakers in Michigan and Maine have filed similar bills, and down-ballot measures to limit the the water bottling industry have also appeared in Oregon and Montana, according to the Washington Post.

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