Where is your water bottle?

Do you carry a water bottle, coffee cup, or another container with you to minimize how much trash you create? Perhaps you carry one to save money. Tap water is readily available for free refills and many places give you a discount if you fill your own cup when you purchase their coffee.


We hope you carry a water bottle because you like the drinking water that comes from your faucet and you know you can easily fill up at the nearest sink or fountain. We love that drinking tap water also keeps stuff out of the waste stream.


We are naturally part of the #ZeroWaste and #BYOBottle movement. Given the high quality, safe drinking water that we deliver to every home, restaurant, lodging property, business, public restroom, or any other building connected to our public water system (generally, East Vail through Cordillera), there’s no need to use any water but what you’re already paying for in your water bill.


Remember drinking fountains? Years ago, no one carried a container with them to have convenient access to water. A drinking fountain was generally nearby when you were thirsty. Savvy beverage executives helped public water fountains decline in availability as the bottled water industry started in the 1970s.


As Fast Company put it, “Bottled water is the food phenomenon of our times. We–a generation raised on tap water and water fountains–drink a billion bottles of water a week, and we’re raising a generation that views tap water with disdain and water fountains with suspicion. We’ve come to pay good money–two or three or four times the cost of gasoline–for a product we have always gotten, and can still get, for free, from taps in our homes.” That article is from 2007. The types of water (flavored, protein, electrolytes, caffeinated, alkaline…) and amount and style of bottles / packaging has only grown since.


Many in our community are committed to sustainability. One of the most sustainable actions you can take is to stop using single-use beverage containers and rely on readily available tap water.


Perhaps you’re motivated by joining a campaign, such as Plastic Free July, which Walking Mountains Science Center has written about in these pages. Go for it. Reducing plastic use helps protect water sources – the same sources that are used to produce drinking water. The beverage industry continues to innovate and make more sustainable packaging. But it is still packaging. There’s a reason why “reduce” is first in the “reduce, reuse, and recycle” mantra.


Eagle River Water & Sanitation District ends up adding to the waste stream when we give people water every Sunday at the Vail Farmers’ Market. Hundreds of people stop by to fill containers, but thousands need a cup so they can have a drink of water. We tell folks it’s a refillable or bottomless cup and encourage them to reuse it all day. Many do just that, yet we routinely pass out 1,500 or more cups at the weekly market. Yes, they’re compostable. Thanks to the town of Vail, everything at the market must be compostable. We’d like to see the ratio reversed and have thousands of people fill a container while only hundreds need a compostable cup.


Now in our eighth season, our water station at the market is part of the decade-old reinvigoration of drinking fountains. Most public fountains now have a bottle filling component. Many public events include water filling stations and the music industry has adopted #BYOBottle as a campaign to “turn the tide on plastic pollution.” We support and applaud these efforts.


Everything starts with individual actions. If you have questions about our tap water, contact us! Whether you stop by the hydration station at the Vail Farmers’ Market or call one of our knowledgeable customer service specialists, we’re here to help. While you’re at it, let us know what else you’d like to see addressed in this column.