After intense public scrutiny and an online petition with over 100,000 signatures, the National Park Service (NPS) has now conceded to allowing future bans on bottled water sales within their parks. However, park superintendents must first have a regional director approve a "rigorous impact analysis" study of the ban’s impacts on costs, health impacts, and other factors before the bans can be enacted.
NPS officials estimate that a bottled water ban in the Grand Canyon could take place as early as Spring 2012, after the required review process. Water bottles are the single largest source of trash in the park.
Earlier this year, the New York Times broke the story that, under pressure from major NPS Foundation contributor Coca Cola, the NPS abruptly stopped a bottled water ban in the Grand Canyon just weeks before implementation. Read more here.
The December 14, 2011 policy memorandums (.pdf) from NPS Director Jon Jarvis to all regional directors cited concerns about the "complex" issues of bottled water. Jarvis justified the new policy to implement a recycling and reduction effort of water bottles, with an option to stop bottled water sales on a park-by-park basis, by stating:
"Banning the sale of water bottles in national parks has great symbolism, but runs counter to our healthy food initiative as it eliminates the healthiest choice for bottled drinks, leaving sugary drinks as a primary alternative. A ban could pose challenges for diabetics and others with health issues who come to a park expecting bottled water to be readily available. For parks without access to running water, filling stations for reusable bottles are impractical."
While public health is always a valid concern, at least in the Grand Canyon refilling stations are feasible and in fact, already installed. The NPS had invested $300,000 worth of water refilling stations installed in the Grand Canyon prior to the ban being halted. Similar programs are currently in place in Zion National Park and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Read the USA Today article.