National parks can decide whether to ban bottled water

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WASHINGTON (Dec. 16 12:45 p.m. ET) — National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis informed regional directors Dec. 13 of steps they can take to ban plastic water bottles at their parks despite the disapproval of Coca-Cola Co., a major donor.

A controversy erupted last month when news broke that Jarvis had halted plans to ban bottled water bottles at Grand Canyon National Park last year after discussions with Coke. The plan was just two weeks away from implementation before being scrapped.

In the memo, Jarvis said park superintendents can stop the sale of the bottles “if they complete an impact analysis that includes an assessment of the effects on visitor health and safety; submit a request in writing to their regional director and receive the approval of their regional director.”

Jarvis also wrote that that bottle situation is complex and is actually a matter of public health.

He cited issues with filling stations, running water access and proper hydration for visitors.

“Banning the sale of water bottles in national parks has great symbolism, but runs counter to our healthy food initiative as it eliminates the healthiest choice for bottled drinks, leaving sugary drinks as a primary alternative,” Jarvis wrote. “A ban could pose challenges for diabetics and others with health issues who come to a park expecting bottled water to be readily available.”

The new policy will help the service and its partners reduce their environmental footprint and introduce visitors to green products, Jarvis wrote.