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New commercial bottled water licenses could be suspended under new bill

A bill that would prohibit the issuance of new licenses for commercial bottled water production, ESSB 6278, was the subject of a public hearing in the House Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday.

The bill would deny permits to commercial bottled water suppliers who apply for permits to withdraw surface water for bottled water production. The bill, if passed, would apply to commercial bottled water producers who apply for a new water withdrawal permit after Jan. 1, 2019, as new production of bottled water would be “deemed detrimental to the public welfare and the public interest,” according to the text of the bill.

The only exceptions to the bill would be if water was withdrawn for bottled water production during a drought or other state of emergency, such as when a public water supplier can’t supply water to its customers. This provision does not apply to municipal water suppliers.

“At the end of the day, we’re living in a time when we have such an appreciation for the scarcity of water ,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Reuven Carlyle (D-36th District). “The real question, of course, is very simple — is commercial bottled water a beneficial use? Is it in the beneficial use of the public interest?”

Carlyle went on to say he wrote the bill as narrowly as he could, using language that only applied to new water rights, which the senator added are already difficult to acquire. The bill passed the Senate on Feb. 17 and is scheduled for executive session in the House Committee on Rural Development, Agriculture and Natural Resources on Friday.