Plastic water bottles are about to become an endangered species at Grand Canyon National Park. The Park Service has announced that the sale of bottled water in vending machines, shops, and hotels inside the park will be banned early next year, in an effort to cut waste and protect the environment there. But first, park officials must complete an extensive survey of the availability of other water sources and the impact the ban could have on the safety and health of visitors.
The Grand Canyon was first set to implement the ban last year, but Jon Jarvis, the Director of the National Park Service, put a halt to that plan. At the time, Jarvis said that the NPS was working on creating a policy for potential adoption by the entire park system, but his announcement led some to speculate that the Coca Cola Company was exercising its considerable influence. The soft drink maker is a major contributor to the parks, but also sells a lot of bottled water as well.
Undaunted by the change in direction, officials at the Grand Canyon continued to move ahead with their own plans. By strategically placing water bottle refill stations throughout the park, and actively encouraging visitors to bring their own reusable bottles, they hoped to cut back on the use of disposable bottles within the Canyon. As a result of these efforts, park officials feel that they are prepared for the ban to go in effect, although they admit that comprehensive studies have not been done yet to determine the impact of the changes.
The Park Services announcement opens the door for other parks to ban plastic bottles as well, although they will have to undergo a rigorous self-assessment before they do so. Some of the things that will need to be considered include the safety of visitors, ease of access to water, and existing contracts with onsite vendors for selling bottled water.
While it may still be a few years off, we’re looking at the potential for a ban of plastic bottles in all of the national parks down the line. In the long run, that is a very good thing for the environments in those parks, but in the short term, a lot of work will need to be done to prep the parks and educate visitors about bringing their own bottles.