This Week's View

by Deanna Lee Birkholm

December 15th, 2003

Water Rights

It's a week or so before Christmas and you probably are more involved with family things, and wondering what you're going to get that special person for a gift. I'm no help with that, but if you've got the shopping and honey-do's done, I'd like you to spend a bit of your holiday time considering something really serious.

I try not to get on a soap-box too often, but there really is something which needs your attention.

What is the most important aspect of fly fishing? What is impossible to remove from the equation?

Clue: The same thing upon which Trout Unlimited based it's credo and organization.

Scratching your head?

TU based it's foundation on 'Clean Water.' Obviously, fish can't survive without proper water - and watersheds. And neither can we.

Another Clue: When you open your refrigerator and grab a bottle of water, where did the water come from?

Which takes us back to the bottle of water in the frig, in your tackle-pac, in your vehicle and everywhere. We've become addicted to the ever-present water bottle.

But there's a problem.

Where does the "water" come from?

Did you know, over a million bottles of water are opened and consumed every day? Did you know the water in those bottles quite often comes from your local watersheds?

Jim Chapralis who wrote the Casting section here on FAOL recently sent me some information which frankly scared the hell out of me. There is a WAR being fought in the midwest on who gets to pump water out of the ground. It is a WAR over the privatization and extraction of water and it will be the No. 1 freshwater conservation/angling concern of the decade.

In a nutshell here is how it goes. A big company, like Nestle/Perrier comes in to an area, one way or another gets the rights to pump water for their bottled water. A single operation can pump 250 million gallons of water a year. Americans are on the average, consuming about 21.1 gallons of bottled water per year per person. Bottled water consumption in the United States has tripled since the early 1990s into a $7.6 billion market with an expected increase of about 10 percent per year.

What if the water the big company is pumping is in the watershed of your blue ribbon trout stream? There are over 70 of these Nestle/Perrier big pumping facilities in the US. There are also OTHER companies doing the same thing. Evian ring any bells?

Americans have been sold a bill of goods - and bought into the hype and advertising big time.

In several taste tests (you can do this one yourself) people did not choose bottled water over just plain chilled tap water from New York City! Good Morning American actually did this test with a live studio audience.

Worse, in many cases, bottled water is not safer than local tap water. Quoting, "The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of bottled water. "While most of the tested waters were found to be of high quality, some brands were contaminated: about one-third of the waters tested contained levels of contamination—including synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic—in at least one sample that exceeded allowable limits under either state or bottled water industry standards or guidelines."

According to Jim Chapralis, "part of the reason is that municipal waters are under the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) which requires constant testing. Bottled water falls under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which requires less or no testing in some cases. For example, if bottled water is sold within the same state, no testing is required.

If this has peaked your interest at all, I would love to have you read the whole report! It's all on Jim Chaparalis' website - Angling Matters!

Jim has the reports on how folks in Wisconsin stopped the big companies from ruining their best trout stream, what is happening in Minnesota and Michigan. Perrier also has their hooks out in Canada, (and they probably aren't the only ones).

You do need to be aware of this problem - and just maybe you need to start filling those empty water bottles with your own tap water and keeping it in the frig - or not quite filling them and putting a couple in the freezer. That would be a good thing! ~ The LadyFisher

If you would like to comment on this or any other article please feel free to post your views on the FAOL Bulletin Board!

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