From: The Committee on Natural Resources – Minority Staff
Sent By:
Date: 11/23/2015

Current Signers: Holmes Norton, Lee, Honda, Lowenthal

Dear Colleague,

As we approach the Centennial of the National Park Service, I ask you to join me in supporting a simple and effective way to keep our parks free from plastic waste and, at the same time, support our public water systems.

In December 2011, NPS Director Jonathan Jarvis introduced a policy allowing park superintendents to halt the sale of plastic water bottles in national parks. As the policy memorandum notes, the environmental impacts from plastic water bottles “may be magnified in remote national parks because of the additional transportation, waste disposal, energy use, and litter removal factors inherent in these locations.” Bottled water represents the single largest source of trash that parks must pay to haul away, representing nearly 30% of their solid waste.

In 2012, the National Parks Service Green Parks Plan set a goal to halve the amount of trash sent to the landfill by 2015. Encouraging progress toward this important environmental goal has been made; to date as many as 75 parks, including the iconic Grand Canyon and Zion National Parks, have gone bottled-water free.

This single policy has opened the way for dramatic waste stream reductions at the parks that have implemented it.  For example, Zion estimates that it now saves 60,000 bottles, or 5,000 pounds of trash annually from entering landfills. These successes have earned bottled-water free parks the support of many conservation and environmental organizations across the country.

Recently, however, the International Bottled Water Association, a bottled water industry trade group, lobbied for the inclusion of a rider to an interior department appropriations bill that would prohibit the National Parks from spending any federal funds to reduce the availability of bottled water, enact robust recycling programs, or educate visitors about the environmental impact of bottled water purchases.

This special interest lobbying sparked outrage from park-goers nationwide. Nineteen national advocacy organizations mobilized 354,200 people to sign a petition opposing this amendment and supporting the National Parks Service’s efforts to go bottled-water free. The amendment also spurred two articles in the Washington Post that exposed the behind-the-scenes lobbying that led to the inclusion of this amendment. This was echoed in an editorial in the New York Times.

In light of this threat to what the New York Times calls a “cautious, sensible policy,” it is time we as Members of Congress renew our support for the Parks to preserve their environment and promote access to public water by going bottled-water free. I hope you will sign onto the attached letter to Parks director Jon Jarvis supporting the effort.

Please join me in signing the attached to letter to demonstrate strong Congressional support for the implementation of this policy. It’s important that we send a clear message on the eve of the Parks’ Centennial that the preservation of the pristine environment of our Parks is top priority. To sign the letter or for more information, please contact Brandon Bragato ( with the Natural Resources Committee staff.


Raul M. Grijalva

Ranking Member
House Committee on Natural Resources



Dear Director Jarvis:

As Members of Congress concerned with the preservation of our National Parks, we support the National Park Service in increasing the availability of public water and adopting bottled water free policies on National Park premises. In 2011, you set out a sensible policy encouraging robust recycling and education programs and laying out a commonsense plan for bottled water free policies that is attentive to both environmental protection and park visitors’ need for easily accessible hydration. As stated in this memo, “Such a policy will allow the NPS and partners to reduce their environmental footprint, introduce visitors to green products and the concept of environmentally responsible purchasing, and give them the opportunity to take that environmental ethic home and apply it in their daily lives. It will also be a significant step in reducing our carbon footprint and meeting A Call to Action Goal #23, Go Green.”

Your recommendations are already having a big impact. After Zion National Park in Utah implemented this policy, the park saw sales of reusable bottles jump 78 percent: keeping 60,000 bottles (or 5,000 pounds of plastic) a year out of the waste stream. In just six months, Lake Mead National Recreation Area visitors have kept more than 13,600 water bottles out of landfills just by using a new water fountain. Those are just two examples from the more than seventy other National Parks that have effectively gone bottled water free.

On the eve of the Centennial and in line with the Parks’ commitment to reduce solid waste pollution, we believe this is a sound, sensible policy that should be implemented widely across the National Parks Service.  This policy can be a beacon of sustainability that educates millions of park-goers about the importance of reducing their carbon footprint and preserving our public water supplies.

We hope that our support spurs additional action from the National Park Service to implement the recommendations contained in your memo. We would also encourage the National Park Service to honor its solid waste reduction goals for the Centennial by proactively promoting this policy to regional directors as a simple and effective way to reduce solid waste pollution at the parks.