Bottled water off the table at Westminster

THE backlash against bottled water continued yesterday with the decision that it will no longer be served by the Westminster government.

Hundreds of restaurants and chefs have already backed the campaign urging people to turn back to tap water.

Now Whitehall departments have received written instructions from the UK's top civil servant to end the practice by the summer.

It follows the decision by Chancellor Alistair Darling to drink tap water when he makes his first Budget speech next Wednesday.

Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O'Donnell has announced that only tap water will be served at Prime Minister Gordon Brown's Cabinet meetings and during official business.

He has written to the head of each government department urging adoption of the "tap water only" policy.

He said: "The government is committed to sustainable operations and I have made this issue one of my key priorities for the civil service.

"Today's announcement is a small part of a much bigger programme of action."

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the Food Standards Agency and the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform have already made the switch to tap water at meetings.

Defra alone was being supplied by caterers with 12,600 bottles of water a year before it banned them.

Scotland Office minister David Cairns was asked earlier this week how much his department spent on bottled water but said records were no longer kept. Previously it spent almost 2,500 a year on supplies.

Officials and ministers will still be able to buy bottled water in Whitehall staff canteens.

Around 65,000 a year is spent by the parliamentary authorities on bottled water, with 16,200 litres a year being made available in committee rooms. This figure rises to 250,000 bottles a year when bars and restaurants are included.

More than 70 MPs have signed a motion supporting World Water Day on 22 March. Another motion backing comments by the Environment Minister, Phil Woolas, about the drinking of bottled water being "daft" has attracted 36 names.

According to campaigners, bottled water has a much larger "carbon footprint" than tap water because of the transporting and packaging involved – more than 300 times the carbon dioxide emissions per litre in the case of some imported brands.

A number of top restaurateurs including Jamie Oliver, Tom Aikens and Antony Worrall Thompson have also made a commitment to making tap water freely available to diners.

TAPPING INTO PUBLIC TASTE

&#149 Bottled water costs 500 times more than tap water, the equivalent of paying 1,500 for a pint of beer or glass of wine.

&#149 70 per cent of people say the price of mineral water in restaurants is too expensive and want to see free tap water readily available.

&#149 One in five people is "slightly nervous" or "too scared to ask" for tap water.

&#149 The average Briton drinks 37.6 litres of bottled water each year.

&#149 2.7million tonnes of plastic are used to bottle water each year worldwide.

&#149 A quarter of all bottled water is produced for export markets.

&#149 22 million tonnes of bottled water are transferred internationally each year.

&#149 Three out of four plastic bottles are not recycled.

&#149 Bottled water has a higher carbon footprint per litre than tap water – more than 300 times the emissions per litre.

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