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Last June, San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom issued an executive directive phasing out the city’s bottled water use, citing environmental concerns and the excellent quality of municipal tap water (see "Message in a Bottle," cover story, September/October 2003). The Hetch Hetchy reservoir, located within Yosemite National Park, supplies what the directive calls some of the "purest, safest drinking water in the nation" to San Francisco, Santa Clara, Alameda and San Mateo counties. In the past four and a half years, the city spent more than $2 million supplying bottled water to government employees. Since July 1, city departments and agencies have been prohibited from purchasing single-serving bottled water using city funds. By December 1, the city must switch from bottled water dispensers to water dispensers using Hetch Hetchy water. The initiative is an adjunct of the city’s Local Climate Action Plan.
Americans buy 28 billon single-serving water bottles each year and more than 80 percent end up in landfills or incinerators, according to the Container Recycling Institute. Supplying this plastic to American consumers requires more than 47 million gallons of oil, which is equivalent to one billion pounds of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere. Newsom says it is important the San Francisco government sets a good example by fighting significant contributors to climate change.