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Local pushes for next step in bottled-water ban

Complete ban would be positive influence

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Although the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) in 2012 eliminated all bottled water at municipal buildings, recreation facilities and most public parks, a new online petition that is gaining traction wants to take the ban a step further.

Steve Andrews started the Change.org petition almost a week ago and with more than 500 signing on within 24 hours, he is bolstered by those who are embracing his idea to push for more.

"I've not bought bottled water for a long time," said Andrews. "It drives me mad, especially when you see people walking through the village with a case of bottled water going to their hotel room."

Andrews would like to see plastic water bottles banned completely from area businesses and stores, and said that leading by example doesn't work when "easy profit is on the line."

RMOW Senior Communications Officer Melissa Darou said in an email: "Bottled water is not offered for sale in any vending machines at Meadow Park Sports Centre or the community schools; and the café vendors at Meadow Park Sports Centre and the Lost Lake PassivHaus do not sell bottled water."

Andrews suggested a bylaw to completely ban the sale of bottled water in Whistler, and a hefty fine to ensure compliance.

"It seems pretty powerless (for the RMOW) if there's nothing that can be done, especially if the majority of the community supports it," he said. "All the millions of visitors who come here, (the ban) could be a positive influence."

The RMOW ban was followed up with the installation of fountains in all of the municipality's facilities and parks, a common undertaking in communities across Canada and in the U.S. And Andrews suggested the RMOW could sell reusable water bottles for use at fountains.

Such efforts haven't been without glitches: According to a 2013 study that examined the ban on the sale of water bottles at the University of Vermont, an increase in the sale of sugary drinks in plastic bottles was noted, with the accompanying use of thicker plastic for such drinks as opposed to what is usually used for water bottles. The research charted a spectacular increase in sugary drinks, while consumption of water in bottles plummeted.

Although the results signalled an adjustment in Vermont, recent sales of bottled water for the first time were more than those of carbonated drinks in the U.S. as of March 2016, according to Beverage Marketing Corp.

Drinking bottled water may also be a preventive move against aging infrastructures and decades-old piping in both urban and rural centres.

"I think it just comes down to simple education. I think people are ingrained to think that tap water is not good for you," said Andrews. "Especially in Whistler's case, this is some of the best water you can find anywhere, so that's why I thought this would be a good initiative."

Darou added: "The water quality standards in Whistler are very high and water is safe to drink from the tap."

Andrews said he will continue to monitor the petition and hopes to get a lot more signatories. From there, he may present the results to the RMOW to determine the next move.

"You have to think of the bigger picture. Do you care more about the environment or making money?" he asked.

Find the petition here: www.change.org/p/mayor-and-council-of-the-resort-municipality-of-whistler-ban-the-sale-of-bottled-water-in-whistler-bc.

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