Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Bubblers for Bellingen Shire

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A letter to the Bellingen Courier Sun:

Dear Editor,

Bubblers for Bello Shire

Please may we have water bubblers on every main street in Bellingen Shire? Surely the rather small expense of installation would be offset by the benefits to residents, tourism, and the pride in our towns.

Until about 30 or so years ago, on most main streets in Australia's cities and towns there were many bubblers of free drinking water every hundred metres or so. For those whose hair has not yet started to grey, to help translate Australian lingo into Americanese, I suppose I must also give the US term: 'drinking fountains'.

Because bubblers were all over cities like Sydney, one could stop for a moment and enjoy a free drink of cool water on any street. Sadly, inexplicably, the bubblers were all removed and now there is a generation of younger ones who actually pay extortionate prices for bottled water in supermarkets! Water that is no better than tap water which is virtually free to any municipality.

Very strangely, Australians consume 550 million litres every year of ordinary water sold in plastic bottles at a higher price than petrol. This is despite the fact that studies have shown that bacteria contamination in bottled water exceeds the pollution in tap water in most Western towns and cities. Approximately 70 per cent of plastic drink bottles end up in landfill, take up to 1,000 years to biodegrade, and, according to some overseas studies, comprise up to 38 per cent of the total volume of street litter.

Bottles that do not get recycled or landfilled pose a serious threat to the wildlife of our precious oceans, according to the founder of the Beach-combers and Oceanographers International Association.

The only reason I ever heard for the removal of good-old Aussie bubblers was that they were unhygienic -- I rather think this was a merchants' excuse than a genuine reason. Moreover, I note that Sydney Airport has bubblers today and I doubt that such an esteemed institution would risk a lawsuit by installing unhygienic drinking devices.

According to Wikipedia, "The global bottled water market grew by 7 per cent in 2006 to reach a value of $60.9 billion" and "created more than 2.5 million tons of CO2 in 2006". Bottled water is a clever ruse perpetrated by major TNCs (transnational corporations) such as The Coca-Cola Company, labelling their products with clever and inviting names. More than 90 per cent of the cost of bottled water is in the bottle, lid, label and marketing, with phony names that suggest Tibet, mountain springs or some health spa, when the product invariably comes straight from municipal reservoirs.

I would urge our shire's merchants to do the right thing and stop perpetuating this lucrative hoax, and in a spirit of public duty remove bottled water from their shelves. Likewise, I would urge local residents to boycott this fraudulent product and strongly explain their reasons to the shopkeepers whenever they shop. But the consumers must be educated. To do so, they might well go to the Internet and Google 'bottled water' and read about this well-documented scam.

I would urge readers interested in the topic of the folly of bottled water to visit the websites and, for a healthy laugh at human folly,

A recent Sunday Herald Sun taste test revealed that 68 per cent of people preferred the taste of tap water over bottled water, while 20 per cent could not tell the difference. Bottled water production generates an estimated 600 times more CO2 than tap water. The Victorian Government estimates that Australian production of bottled water consumes 314,000 barrels of oil a year. "About 76,000 tonnes of plastic bottle waste went to landfill or ended in our environment as rubbish in recent years," Clean Up Australia Day chairman, Ian Kiernan was reported as saying, in the Herald Sun.

Back to the topic at hand. It seems that every candidate in our recent local elections, regardless of their politicial stripes, included in their promotional literature two essential and elect-worthy subjects, namely, the word 'sustainability' (a buzzword lately appropriated by big business and politicians, from the once-derided vocabulary of the 'alternative movement), and a promise to replace the filthy toilets in Church Street.

Would it be too much to ask that Council will also instal water bubblers in our main streets, and that our residents committedly and repeatedly request, or even demand, Council to do so? Could local organisations and service clubs please put this issue on their agenda and commit to becoming active? We love Bellingen Shire, but it can very awfully hot, as we all know. Please may we have free water bubblers on our main streets? Bellingen Shire is a progressive shire. Maybe we could start a worldwide trend! Perhaps our council's tourism gurus could call us "The Free Water Capital of the World"! That should bring in a few bucks.

Yours faithfully,

Pip Wilson

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Blogger Fignatz said...

Not only everything you said about old-style bubblers, Pip, but if you got a finger over the spout in just the right way, you could squirt your mates. Good luck with the very sensible idea, but I'll bet the Council will say it's too expensive for them to do what earlier, poorer Councils did back then simply as a matter of course.

6:21 PM  
Anonymous barry simiana said...

i too miss the bubblers. the water was clear and cold and free. unfortunately - today - it's the work of cretinous individuals, slow of mind, who break, smash and do nasty things to bubblers because "duhhhh, it's fun!". if such individuals were out of the scenario (sent to dig a great ditch between the great aust bight and say the gulf, a great many once free things we remember with fondness would return. parks with toys for the kids,rotunda (remember those old meeting places where in many years gone by town bands would stike up a tune on a blissfull sundau afternoon) and the good old bubblers. and maybe repect for all things that were there for the public good.

sorry to rant. just my own small opinion.


10:19 AM  
Blogger Pip said...

I hadn't considered that side of it, Barry. I think you make a good point. But if more things were free, maybe young doofuses wouldn't be so angry and out to smash things. Maybe it's the commercialization of everything that is partly to blame for making kids pissed off with their elders -- and, as elders, it's our fault and our responsibility to change matters. Just a thought right off the top of my scone, and I'm only just awake after working till 6am, so pls excuse me if it's not too enlightened.

10:39 AM  

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