House Subcommittee Hearing on Bottled Water

December 2007

On December 12, 2007, IBWA testified before the Subcommittee on Domestic Policy of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. The purpose of the hearing was “Assessing the Environmental Risks of the Water Bottling Industry’s Extraction of Groundwater.”

The Subcommittee heard from the following nine witnesses:

Panel I

Bill McCann
Save Our Groundwater
Click here for a copy of his testimony

Terry Swier
Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation
Click here for a copy of her testimony

Richard McFarland
McCloud Watershed Council
Click here for a copy of his testimony

Heidi Paul
Vice President, Corporate Affairs
Nestle Waters North American, Inc.
Click here for a copy of her testimony

Panel II

Wenonah Hauter
Executive Director
Food & Water Watch
Click here for a copy of her testimony

David W. Hyndman
Department of Geological Sciences
Michigan State University
Click here for a copy of his testimony

Noah D. Hall
Wayne State University Law School
Click here for a copy of his testimony

Joseph K. Doss
President and CEO
International Bottled Water Association
Click here for a copy of his testimony

James Wilfong
Executive Director
H2O for ME
Click here for a copy of his testimony

Chairman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) opened the hearing (ATTACHED) by highlighting the growth of the bottled water industry and the patchwork of laws that regulate groundwater withdrawals. He cited the frustrations local groups have had in addressing the potential environmental impact of bottling operations. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who is the ranking Republican on the Subcommittee, raised the issue of water infrastructure and the need to provide potable water to areas without adequate supplies in his opening statement. Some of the important questions raised during the hearing involved the difference on impact of the bottled water industry on groundwater as opposed to other water users; the adequacy of state laws; and the FDA definition of spring water.

IBWA’s Government Relations and Communications staffs teamed up together to prepare for and attend the hearing, and IBWA and Nestle Waters North America did an excellent job of representing the bottled water industry during the hearing. IBWA informed the Subcommittee that bottled water production accounts for less than 2/100 of 1 percent (.02%) of the total groundwater withdrawn in the United States each year. We also provided information about our support of federal and state groundwater management proposals that are comprehensive, science-based, multi-jurisdictional, and treat all users equitably in order to provide a sustainable resource. And we were able to point to our support for and involvement with comprehensive groundwater laws enacted in five states.

The Subcommittee focused on the environmental impact of the FDA standard of identity for “spring water” in their questioning of the industry panel, and it was noted that FDA did not include an environmental impact assessment in the final bottled water rule. There was consensus among nearly all hearing panelists that more and better data is needed on groundwater, and that funding for the United States Geological Survey would be helpful in getting better data for states to use in reviewing groundwater withdrawals. Chairman Kucinich indicated in his post-hearing press release that the hearing was only the first Congressional hearing to assess the environmental risks of the water bottling industry’s extraction of groundwater.