Americans purchase some 50 billion bottles of water every year. That’s more than 95,000 a minute! 

All that water comes from our public water systems and groundwater. In other words, the bottled water industry is taking our water and selling it back to us. 

Meanwhile, groundwater is facing depletion nationwide and millions of Americans drink unsafe tap water from systems that violate health standards. Not to mention there’s an island of plastic garbage swirling in the Pacific Ocean double the size of Texas.

But Washington State is looking to put a stop to this madness—or at least keep its water from the likes of Nestlé and Coca-Cola.

Last week, the state senate passed a bill that could make the state the first in the nation to ban water bottling companies from tapping spring-fed sources. Local groups like the Lewis County Water Alliance had been pushing the senate to act. The legislation will now move on to the House and eventually the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee.

“The Washington state bill is groundbreaking,” said Mary Grant of Food & Water Watch. “This legislation would ban one of the worst corporate water abuses.”

She’s not exaggerating. The stories of corporate abuse nationwide are jaw dropping. Just one example: Nestlé takes tens of millions of gallons of water from California’s San Bernardino National Forest each year, even as the state suffers through drought—and it doesn’t pay a dime for it.

“The fact that we have incredibly loose, if virtually nonexistent, policy guidelines around this is shocking and a categorical failure,” Washington state Sen. Reuven Carlyle, who sponsored the bill, told the Washington Post.

He’s right. A 40-year assault on government by corporate interests and conservative ideologues has turned many of our public institutions against everyday Americans.

Corporations like Nestlé and groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have captured legislatures and regulatory agencies, re-wrote the rules on political spending, weakened voting rights, and shifted the tax burden on to poor and working people. No wonder trust in government remains at a historic low.

Yet, Washington State is showing how government can and should work for all of us, not just corporations and the wealthy. 

Water is a public good—and government is the only institution capable of making sure that it remains that way.

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