ASPEN - In an effort to reduce the local use of bottled water in environmentally unfriendly containers, the city of Aspen is considering a program to market its own municipal tap water.
Ashley Cantrell, a city environmental health specialist, explained the proposal during the Aspen City Council's work session Tuesday. Details are in the preliminary stages, but involve a three-step approach: a campaign to educate locals and visitors about the quality of the city's tap water; providing free water at two "filling stations" around town, with one location possibly being a park; and selling reusable containers at local retail outlets to offer an alternative to plastic water bottles.
Early this year, following a trip to the British Virgin Islands, Councilman Torre brought up the idea of banning bottled water after seeing the plastic containers littering the waters. The City Council then directed its Environmental Health Department staff to research the issue.
In a recent memorandum to the council, Cantrell wrote that the complete elimination of bottled water "is neither an achievable nor a manageable goal at this time." But a campaign to promote and market Aspen tap water is doable, depending on costs, most council members agreed during Tuesday's meeting.
"Rather than target bottled water as a negative thing, we want to promote Aspen tap water as a positive thing," Cantrell told council members.
City Parks Director Jeff Woods said systems for two water-filling stations may only cost $5,000 to $10,000 each, depending on the equipment that's purchased and the extent of the installation. The costs could possibly run higher, he said. Council members asked Woods and Cantrell to return at a later time with more exact figures on the cost of such systems and the entire program.
While Torre had brought up the idea of a total bottle ban earlier this year, he said he supports the proposal and added that he would volunteer time to get it started.
"I'm in favor of all of it," Torre said.
He said he has contacted professional snowboarder Gretchen Bleiler, who has expressed an interest in assisting the city with the campaign.
Councilman Derek Johnson said he also supports educational efforts to promote Aspen tap water as well as creating stations for free distribution. But he said he would be hesitant to support another potential option, banning bottled water at city-sponsored events.
Councilman Steve Skadron said he also likes the proposal, but wants more information on costs.
Mayor Mick Ireland said before embarking on a full-fledged program, the city should hold educational events, perhaps contests or taste tests, to bring the public on board.
"I think there's some opportunity for some fun before we get too serious about this," Ireland said. "My objective is to get people talking and thinking about this."