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Ecumenical Water Network urges elimination of bottled water

Ecumenical Water Network urges elimination of bottled water

Members of the EWN’s International Reference Group with the WCC staff members in Geneva. Left to right: Simon Awad, Rommel Linatoc, Isabel Phiri, Veronica Flachier, Susan Smith, Arnold Temple and Dinesh Suna. © WCC/Gerard Scarff

24 July 2015

The International Reference Group of the Ecumenical Water Network (EWN) of the World Council of Churches (WCC), at the conclusion of its recent meeting in Geneva, urged churches and ecumenical organizations in Europe and North America to consider eliminating the use of bottled water due to its adverse impact on the environment and because it is an impediment to realizing the human right to water.

According to research reports, bottled water wastes fossil fuels in production and transport. Rather than being recycled, about 75 percent of the empty plastic bottles end up in landfills, lakes, streams and oceans,where they may never fully decompose.

The EWN argues that many times governments shun their responsibilities to provide safe drinking water to the poor through their water distribution system, because people have the alternative of “bottled water.”  The availability of bottled water allows the elites to ignore the government’s failure to provide the necessary infrastructure to provide safe drinking water, they argue.

Through aggressive marketing strategies, bottled water industries have successfully captured the minds of people, particularly in the “developed” countries, to think that “bottled water” is safer and healthier than tap water. Today not only people from countries where tap water is not safe to drink buy bottled water at much higher prices, but also people in developed countries in Europe and North America, where tap water is safe to drink.

The EWN, a project of the World Council of Churches (WCC), has been raising awareness among churches and ecumenical organizations about water and sanitation issues, including the use of bottled water.

The meeting of the EWN’s International Reference Group was held 15-17 July in Geneva.

The group also agreed to launch its Lenten campaign Seven Weeks for Water from Palestine in 2016 as a “pilgrimage of justice and peace in Jerusalem.” The campaign, which addresses water issues from a justice perspective, will also provide a focus for the EWN’s upcoming meeting in Egypt.

The International Reference Group also adopted a response to the recently issued encyclical Laudato si by Pope Francis, welcoming the document’s specific attention to issues of water and sanitation and praising  its “deep insight and timely commentary.”

The group’s response commends the way in which the papal encyclical connects crucial issues of water injustice, climate change and the loss of biodiversity. “The encyclical manifests the Holy Father’s deep concern about the water issues that are at the core of EWN’s global advocacy efforts, including realization of the human right to water and sanitation, privatization and corporate water grabbing, water for food and attainment of the UN sustainable development goals,” according to the response.

“We must learn to govern our lives by these values and extend them to the whole of creation. As Pope Francis indicates, we need to change our overly consumptive lifestyles, and profoundly alter our society’s approach to water and other elements of nature, to address the critical water problems we have created,” reads the response.

The group also strategized concerning EWN’s participation in the upcoming United Nations General Assembly in New York in September, where a series of 17 post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) will be launched. The EWN will lobby in particular for the adoption of goal number 6 related to water.

The EWN’s International Reference Group includes representatives of the Catholic churches in Latin America and Africa, regional ecumenical organizations, specialized ministries and representatives of the WCC’s Orthodox and Protestant member churches.

Read full text of the EWN response on the papal encyclical Laudato si

EWN appeal to eliminate use of bottled water

More information: Ecumenical Water Network

Seven Weeks for Water