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Archive for Saturday, July 16, 2005

Wichita shelves plan to bottle water

Officials say city lacks time and resources

July 16, 2005

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— Wichita's water department chief on Friday put the damper on the notion that the city will be getting into the bottled water business anytime soon.

Director David Warren said the Water and Sewer Department, during city budget discussions, floated the idea of bottling the city's tap water and providing it at city events where regular water fountains aren't available.

But the idea never got off the ground, he said.

"It was part of a list of possible program options in March that we prepared for the budget," Warren said. "This and other options were dropped because we don't have the time or resources to pursue it right now."

Jerry Blain, a special projects engineer for the water department, said bottling city water could be a good public relations move if the city were to go in that direction.

"It's a way of reinforcing that the stuff that comes out of the tap is good enough to drink," Blain said.

The myth that public water is somehow unsafe and the fact that bottled water is easier to take in the car or on the morning run than a glass from the sink is why bottled water outsells all other beverages in the country, said Henry Hidell, whose consulting company works with the bottled water industry.

"More and more municipalities have explored the possibility of bottling their own water," Hidell said. "During the last decade, several municipalities have ventured into the actual bottling of their water."

The glass is still half empty when it comes to how effective these efforts have been.

Kansas City, Mo., first developed its City of Fountains Bottled Water in 1998 and it's proven popular, said city spokeswoman Colleen Newman.

She said the city came up with the idea after officials grew frustrated that city workers were buying water in bulk from private companies instead of using tap water. A company from Kansas City, Kan., bottles the tap water and sells cases wholesale to the zoo and city stadiums, among other places.

"It's more for convenience," Newman said.

Elizabeth Owens, a utility coordinator for the Wichita water department, said she got the idea of a Wichita brand while drinking another city's bottled water at a conference.

City council members didn't include the proposal in next year's budget. Owens said the city wouldn't do it unless it was inexpensive, but she didn't have a cost estimate.

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