Newsom tries to bottle up eateries’ water

Mayor Gavin Newsom wants to see fewer restaurant tables adorned with bottles of Perrier and Evian and announced Thursday that he is urging restaurants to remove bottled water from their menus.

The move was the latest in a flood of environmental initiatives Newsom has announced since becoming mayor, and his second effort regarding the bottled-water industry. In 2007, the mayor barred city departments from spending funds on bottled water.

An estimated 28 billion water bottles are dumped into California landfills every year, said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, a tap-water advocacy group, who spoke alongside Newsom at a news conference held at the Ferry Building.

The quality of water purchased in a bottle is not necessarily tested as frequently for contaminants as tap water, Hauter said. “We need to realize bottled water is a con job and a scam,” she said.

Newsom, acknowledging that even his own restaurants such as PlumpJack Cafe and Balboa Cafe were slow in warming to the idea, said he was also considering tax credits or a type of financial incentive for restaurants to serve only tap water.

“It’s a profit center for restaurants,” the mayor said. “Like wine and other beverages in restaurants, it’s a huge margin.”

Newsom said he was against water bottled in glass as well as plastic, including bubbly water.

Kevin Westlye, executive director of the Golden Gate Restaurant Association, said while tap water was more sustainable for businesses, there were also other concerns at play.

Tourists from other countries typically do not want tap water at a restaurant, Westlye said.

“Foreign travelers like to drink bottled water because they don’t want to introduce new flora into their system,” he said. “The concern is just like if you traveled to Europe — you’d like to drink bottled water.”

A spokeswoman for Nestlé Waters North America, which bottles and distributes Calistoga, Perrier and Arrowhead water to California, said restaurant patrons might like to have a choice of water that could accompany their food.

“I think restaurateurs feel that their patrons can decide and they want to offer them a range of preferences,” said spokeswoman Jane Lazgin, adding that the company considers itself “environmentally conscious” with five “green” bottling plants, and sustainable management of its water sources.

The City, which draws its water from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir system, has nationally recognized tap water.

dsmith@examiner.com

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