Grand Canyon National Park to eliminate sale of water in disposable containers

Plan approved Feb. 6 and scheduled to go into effect in early March

RAND CANYON, Ariz. - Grand Canyon National Park will eliminate the in-park sale of water packaged in individual disposable containers in early March under a plan approved Feb. 6 by National Park Service (NPS) Intermountain Regional (IMR) Director John Wessels.

Free water stations are available throughout the park to allow visitors to fill reusable water bottles.

The park's plan calls for the elimination of the sale of water packaged in individual disposable containers of less than one gallon, including plastic bottles and various types of boxes. The waste associated with disposable bottles comprises an estimated 20 percent of the park's overall waste stream and 30 percent of the park's recyclables.

Former Grand Canyon Superintendent Steve Martin spearheaded the plan to curtail the sale of disposable water bottles in late 2010. National Park Service (NPS) Director John Jarvis blocked the plan just two weeks before it was scheduled to take effect.

In a November New York Times story, former Superintendent Steve Martin said his plan was curtailed after Coca-Cola expressed concern about the plan, contacting the National Park Foundation who in turn contacted Jarvis.

David Barna, NPS spokesman, said the Regional Director in the Denver office did not approve the plan. He added media coverage of Coca-Cola's possible role in Grand Canyon's water bottle plan definitely influenced the early issuance of disposable water bottle sale guidelines.

Grand Canyon National Park's plan was submitted and approved in accordance with the policy issued by NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis on Dec. 14, 2011. Under the policy, parks are directed to implement a disposable plastic water bottle recycling and reduction policy, with an option to eliminate in-park sales - with the approval of the park's regional director - following a thorough analysis of a variety of factors ranging from the cost to install water filling stations, to the cost and availability of BPA-free reusable containers, to potential effects on public safety.

Regional Director Wessels said parks should set the standard for resource protection and sustainability.

"Grand Canyon National Park has provided an excellent analysis of the impacts the elimination of bottled water would have, and has developed a well-thought-out plan for ensuring that the safety, needs and comfort of visitors continue to be met in the park" Wessels said. "I feel confident that the impacts to park concessioners and partners have been given fair consideration and that this plan can be implemented with minimal impacts to the visiting public."

Grand Canyon National Park has experienced increasing amounts of litter associated with disposable plastic bottles along trails both on the rim and within the inner canyon, marring canyon viewpoints and visitor experiences.

Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga said Grand Canyon Park officials hope to minimize both the monetary and environmental costs associated with water packaged in disposable containers.

"We are grateful to the Director for recognizing the need for service-wide guidance on this issue and for providing a thoughtful range of options," he said.

According to Jarvis, careful thought went into the current plan and its implementation.

"I applaud Grand Canyon National Park for its efforts to reduce waste and the environmental impacts created by individually packaged water," he said. "This is another example of The National Park Service's commitment to being an exemplar of the ways we can all reduce our imprint on the land as we embrace sustainable practices that will protect the parks for generations to come."

To view a copy of the servicewide policy on reduction of disposable plastic bottles in parks, visit www.nps.gov/policy/plastic.pdf. For more information on Grand Canyon's voluntary reusable water bottle program, please visit the park's web site at www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/refilling_stations.htm.

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