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Recklessly hitting the bottle

By Bernard Eddy - posted Monday, 20 July 2009

The double act featuring Nathan Rees and the bottled water banners of Bundanoon - “Bundy on Tap” - is attracting mixed reactions.

Amid the biggest media splash in living memory, Premier Rees banned bottled water in all government offices and Bundanoon became the world’s first bottled water free town.

Up in the villa and down in the city, the battle was on to wind back the $400 billion giant global bottled water scam rated the fastest growing, least regulated industry on earth.


Sadly, 24 hours after the banned water-wagon rolled out, the New South Wales Government reneged. The Premier had made the announcement right after contracts had been signed with three bottled water companies to supply all parliamentary departments and offices for a further three years. And the Bundanoon ban didn’t include sparking mineral water in glass bottles.

The Bundy on Tap plan is to ban still water: the sort everyone can access by turning on a tap. Bundanoon will shortly offer townsfolk and visitors free access to filtered water bubblers in the main street.

Unfortunately, on the day Bundanoon blitzed the world, the local council approved a development application by Norlex Holdings to further advance plans to set up a bottled water plant right in the middle of the world’s first bottled water free town.

Ignored by all is the crucial issue of the state of groundwater in the Southern Highlands.

A state government report by independent groundwater experts found that drought, over allocation of bore licences and unmonitored extraction had left groundwater reserves in serious deficit. Subsequently, an embargo was placed on the issuing of commercial licences. Recently acquired data from the same monitoring bores used to compile the 2004 report show that groundwater levels are lower today than they were when the embargoes were declared.

Norlex has been granted its water allocation because its issue predates the embargoes. As an eerie echo of the water pillaged village of Fryeburg, Maine, Bundanoon is yet another case of inadequate stewardship of ever dwindling groundwater reserves.


Elsewhere, the Manly Council was forced to pull their filtered water bubblers off-line during the Manly Food and Wine Festival. The Manly Daily claimed this was “due to the threat of swine flu”. Interestingly, water fountains in all the schools were not declared off limits even though children are predominantly susceptible to H1N1.

A further outcome is the number of Manly shopkeepers threatened with the confiscation of their fridges should Manly Council vote to follow the Bundanoon ban. The likely upshot would be a rival company taking over and simply stocking replacement fridges with an alternative brand of bottled water.

Meanwhile back in Bundanoon the epitome of comic irony was achieved by Greg Parker - CEO of the leading bottled water industry group - telling a Bundanoon council meeting they were “taking away the consumers right of choice”.

As an aside, Coca Cola Amatil have a reservation on a Bundanoon brand name for bottled water.

On the water advocacy front, the bright glare of media interest might just persuade the water bottlers to exercise caution in how they procede.

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About the Author

Bernard Eddy is the co-convenor of the Australian Water Network.

Other articles by this Author

All articles by Bernard Eddy

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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