Challenge takes on bottled water

The nationwide campaign promotes making clean water available to all, not just private companies.

Angela Gray

Blindfolds, paper cups and guessing games – all for a global cause.

Community leaders and activists in the Twin Cities area urged students to “Think Outside the Bottle” as part of a national campaign launched by Corporate Accountability International to challenge the marketing muscles of the bottled water industry.

On Thursday the organization hosted a tap water challenge, daring University students to put on blindfolds and try to tell the difference between tap water, Coca-Cola’s Dasani, Pepsi’s Aquafina and Nestle’s Poland Springs bottled waters.

Two of the cups sampled contained tap water drawn from different public taps and two contained brand-name bottled water.

Linda Wells, a spokeswoman for Corporate Accountability International, said the tap water challenges are scheduled to take place nationwide throughout the month, in the wake of the U.N.’s World Water Day on March 22.

Ultimately, Wells said, she wants students to walk away knowing they do not have to buy water from a corporation, and that those corporations need to stop misleading the public about tap water.

Jim Fassett-Carmen, a volunteer for the campaign, said this is an event to increase awareness among people in Minneapolis about how corporations seek greater control of water around the world.

“More and more Americans are drinking bottled water,” he said. “Nestle and Coke are really promoting bottled water and trying to privatize it.”

There is less and less fresh water available to people in the world because of pollution, poverty, war and corporate control, Fassett-Carmen said.

Instead of the world’s water being controlled by corporate interests profiting from the resource, he said there should be public laws about accountability and clean water availability for all people.

Fassett-Carmen said he went to India in 2004 to represent Corporate Accountability International.

“I participated in a 10-day march from one Coke plant to another,” he said.

He added that they focused not only on the Coca-Cola plants, but also on “the millions of gallons of water the company sucked out of areas where there are shortages.”

Fassett-Carmen talked with farmers in the area about water tables dropping, limited access to water, wells drying up and Coca-Cola companies dumping sludge and polluting nearby land.

“We’re a wealthy nation where buying a bottle of water is nothing, but there are some who cannot afford it,” he said. “Water is a life force we all need.”

People need to do more to protect quality and access to clean water, said Lisa Ledwidge, of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

The league has begun to address global water issues because it realized how corporations are trying to profit from the resource, she said.

“We believe that water should be a common good,” she said. “Water is a human need, not a commodity to make money off of.”

Jenny Chang, a global studies junior, said she has become active in the campaign because she has strong opinions about the issues.

“It’s really important for the public to be aware of the consequences of (bottled water) markets in the U.S.,” she said.

Chang said there are many organizations and activists on campus, which makes it a great place to begin and become aware of the issue.

“These are the people that are really welcome to new ideas and new ways of thinking,” she said.

Jeff Lopez, a history junior who was buying a bottle of Dasani water at Java City in Blegen Hall, said he likes to buy bottled water because it is efficient.

“I like to have water with me,” he said. “I can buy it and then walk away with it.”