Woe to the thirsty of Concord, Mass. Under a bylaw born of convoluted reasoning, a person who heads into a store in that town for some hydration will be able to buy a plastic bottle of soda, but not a similar bottle of what dietitians say should be the drink of choice: water.
That's because Concord has become the first city in the United States to ban the sale of serving-size bottled water. It's enough to make New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose proposed ban on the sale of large servings of soda is up for a key vote this week, weep.
Yet the two ideas have a lot in common. Both represent sincere attempts to fight social ills. In New York's case, obesity; in Concord's, the pileup of plastic bottles in landfills. Both also suffer from a lack of consistency (the soda law, for instance, would allow big servings of other drinks with even more calories) and are an unwelcome interference in the marketplace. Both started in one city but involve campaigns with national ambitions.
Bottled water owes its popularity to a variety of factors: a misconception that all bottled water is safer or purer than the stuff that flows from the tap; convenience; flavor; concerns about the chlorination or fluoridation of tap water; and marketing that gave bottled water a trendy image.