Yosemite Isn’t a Vending Machine for Big Water

The $13 billion bottled water industry wants to force national parks to sell their products. Tell Congress NO. 

Disposable plastic water bottles are the single biggest source of trash and pollution in our national parks. That’s why in 2011, the National Park Service gave national parks the ability to ban sales of commercially bottled water from wasteful, disposable plastic bottles.

Instead, the new program encouraged the installation of “hydration stations” at rangers stations and visitor’s centers so the public can refill their own reusable bottles with water from public sources. It was rapidly adopted by some of the most iconic and cherished national parks across the country. By 2014, nearly two dozen national parks had implemented it, including the Grand Canyon and Mount Rushmore. Zion National Park reported that the program eliminated more than 60,000 disposable bottles—5,000 pounds of plastic—every year.

The water stations are a sustainable practice that save taxpayers money not only by providing a free water source, but by reducing the cost of cleaning up plastic waste in waterways and on grounds. Not to mention, they prevent the loss of natural beauty, which carries an unquantifiable cost that everyone has to pay.

But the ability of national parks to implement this policy may soon come to an end. After intense pressure and lobbying from giant water bottling companies like Coca-Cola and Nestle, Republicans in Congress slipped a last-minute amendment into its parks funding bill that prohibits national parks from banning disposable bottled water.

According to Katherine McFate, president of the Center for Effective Government:

Industry lobbyists succeeded in getting an industry-friendly amendment (or policy rider) attached to a government funding bill pending in the House. Introduced by Republican Rep. Keith Rothfus of Pennsylvania, a state that employs 6,800 people at bottled water companies, the amendment would prevent the Park Service from using any of its funds to implement a ban on bottled water sales.

This is a stunning giveaway to the bottled water industry at the expense of our national parks, which were created to preserve pristine outdoor areas and wilderness for the enjoyment of all—not to boost the profits of corporations. 

Today, Americans discard over 50 billion plastic water bottles per year, which consumes 20 billion barrels of oil and releases 25 million tons of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The National Park Service estimated that reducing bottled water could eliminate 6,000 tons of carbon emissions and 8 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

We can’t allow members of Congress to overturn sound public policies and sell out our national parks to the bottled water industry. Tell your elected officials to strip this terrible idea out before it passes this year’s national parks funding bill.

SIGN THE PETITION: Tell Congress to stop bottled water companies from polluting our national parks.

Water bottle refill station in Province Lands Cape Cod visitor center. Photo: National Parks Service.


More National Parks Ban Plastic Bottle Sales,” Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, March 25, 2014.

Lisa Rein, “How Big Water is trying to stop the National Park Service from cleaning up plastic bottles fouling the parks,” Washington Post, July 13, 2015.

Plastic Water Bottles in National Parks and the Green Parks Plan,” National Park Service, January 5, 2010.

Adele Peters, “The Bottled Water Industry Is Fighting To Keep Plastic Bottles In National Parks,” Fast Co.Exist, July 20, 2015.

Nearly two dozen national park sites ban plastic water bottle sales,” The Wilderness Society, April 10, 2014.

Top photos are from Foter. John in LA / CC BY-NC-ND; Muffet / CC BY. Illustration by PPC

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