Why was the executive order issued?
Executive Order 18 was issued as part of New York State's expanded efforts to incorporate sustainability initiatives at State facilities. It follows Executive Order 4, which promotes green procurement and agency sustainability programs. Executive Order 18 is more specific, and limits the purchase of bottled water with State funds as a result of the growing awareness regarding the environmental impacts of choosing bottled water over tap water. As stated directly in the order, the State has an obligation to promote sound environmental practices, such as conserving, improving and protecting the State's natural resources, reducing pollution and conserving energy. The production and sale of bottled water requires the expenditure of energy in its manufacture, transport, chilling and storage, which also results in the emission of greenhouse gases. Because many water bottles are not recycled, they contribute to litter and incur disposal costs. New York State is home to some of the highest quality and best tasting water in the nation, and taxpayers have made significant investments in New York's drinking water infrastructure. The order is intended to maximize the return on that investment, and to minimize unnecessary expenditures and environmental impacts associated with bottled water.
What are the primary obligations of each state agency under the order?
Executive Order 18 required each executive agency to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the expenditure of state funds for the purchase of bottled water at state facilities. Additionally, each agency must submit an annual report on its progress in implementing its plan. The Order permits this report to be made in conjunction with the annual report required under Executive Order 4: Establishing a State Green Procurement and Agency Sustainability Program. The annual report must be made until the Director of State Operations determines that full compliance with the Order has been achieved by all executive agencies.
What agencies are required to comply with the Order?
The Order states that it applies to all executive agencies, and defines "executive agency" as "any department, agency, division, commission, bureau or other entity of the state over which the Governor has executive power." Agencies should consult with their counsel's office if they require more particularized guidance on this issue.
The Order notes that public entities are not subject to its requirements, such as local governments and school districts, but are encouraged to work toward the goal of eliminating bottled water purchases, and authorizes OGS, DOH and DEC to provide guidance that will assist these entities in doing so.
My office resides in a leased space, what can we do to comply with EO 18?
State leases contain a clause requiring the landlord to supply potable water sufficient for drinking, washroom and cleaning purposes in the premises. In addition, most State leases contain a standard clause requiring landlords to comply with pertinent laws, rules, and orders. If your agency occupies leased space and does not appear to have an adequate potable tap water supply, the issue should be discussed with the landlord in order to achieve appropriate resolution consistent with the terms of the lease. Agencies may also contact the OGS Real Property for additional guidance or assistance in achieving a satisfactory resolution.
My office has water coolers that are paid for by employees who started a water club. Are these affected by EO 18?
No, the Order does not ban employee-supported water clubs paid for with non-state funds. However, agencies are required to identify reasonable improvements that can be made to agency facilities to provide or increase reasonable access to tap water for consumption in place of bottled water. In making reasonable improvements to the access and appeal of tap water, agencies may spur employees to voluntarily choose to drink it in place of bottled water. The executive order is not strictly concerned with saving the state money, but is also concerned with the quality of water that people consume, the promotion of municipal water systems, and communicating the understanding that bottled water has higher environmental and resource costs than existing water systems.
Where does bottled water come from?
Bottled water can come from any of a variety of sources including wells, springs, or municipal tap water.
Isn't bottled water better?
Bottled water is not necessarily safer than your tap water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for tap water provided by public water systems; the Food and Drug Administration sets bottled water standards based on EPA's tap water standards. New York has established standards for both tap and bottled water that are equal to or more stringent than the standards set by EPA and the FDA which are outlined in 10 NYCRR 5-1 and 10 NYCRR 5-6, respectively. There have been many studies done that indicate that bottled water is not necessarily cleaner/purer than tap water. It is also important to note that water coolers housing 5-gallon water bottles require regularly scheduled cleaning in order to reduce bacterial growth inside the units. Most manufacturers advise cleaning with a bleach or vinegar solution every time a bottle is changed. This cleaning is rarely done.
How is bottled water treated?
Some bottled water is treated more than tap water, while some is treated less or not treated at all. Consumers who choose to purchase bottled water should carefully read the label to understand what they are buying. All bottled water produced, used and/or sold in New York State must be certified and bear a certification number which appears on the label of the bottle as NYSHD Cert. #XXX. For more information on the certification of bottled water in New York State, please see the New York State Department of Health's website.
Where does the water in my building come from?
Nearly all state facilities receive water from the local municipality. In a few cases there may be an individual well system for sites in outlying areas that are not otherwise served. Your agency's administrative officer or facility manager can likely provide more detailed information specific to your situation.
Is the water in my building tested?
OGS conducts random testing in the facilities it owns. This sampling may include lead and/or bacteria testing. In non-OGS owned buildings such testing may or may not be conducted. For specific information, contact your tenant service representative and they will contact building management.
Does our water need to be tested?
If you are served by a public water system, testing may not be necessary. Contact your building management or landlord to determine if any tests are being performed. For additional questions, contact your local health department representative.
If an agency wants to test its water, who will bear the cost?
If you are in a state office building run by OGS, OGS already tests its water and bears that cost.
Will a municipal water system let us know if there is a problem with the water?
Water suppliers must provide their customers with annual drinking water quality reports (or consumer confidence reports, see next question). These reports will tell consumers what contaminants have been detected in their drinking water, how these detection levels compare to drinking water standards, and where their water comes from.
Can I get a copy of the consumer confidence report that covers my building??
Reports for major water systems are available online here.
What is a drinking water standard?
Under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), EPA sets standards for approximately 90 contaminants in drinking water. For each of these contaminants, EPA sets a legal limit or requires a certain treatment. Water suppliers cannot provide water that doesn't meet these standards. New York State has established standards in 10 NYCRR 5-1 that are equal to or more stringent than the standards set by the EPA.
My facility gets water from an on-site well. Are there regulations to cover that?
The New York State Department of Health has specific regulations that cover the construction and use of individual water wells. If the well serves 25 people or more it may be classified as a public water supply. For more information, check with your local health department representative.
Is there a certain company that should be used to test our water?
There is a list of certified testing facilities at: https://www.wadsworth.org/regulatory/elap/certified-labs. If you contact your local health department representative, they should be able to help you choose a facility.
What should we test the water for?
Your local health department representative can help determine what tests are appropriate.
When we get the test results back, how can we assess the findings?
Your local health department representative can assist you with assessing the test results.