Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

January 4, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

2006 IF STONE MEMORIAL AWARD NOMINEE....From the Department of Trying Too Hard comes this hard hitting investigative report from the Los Angeles Times:

Despite spending $1 million in the last two years to assure Los Angeles residents that their tap water is not only safe to drink but also top quality, city officials spent $88,900 in public money during that time on bottled water from private firms.

The Department of Water and Power, which supplies the city's water and promotes it, spent the most on bottled water, paying $31,160 to Sparkletts.

For the DWP that works out to $1.86 per employee per year for bottled water. That's what? Two or three bottles each?

Give me a break.

Kevin Drum 1:19 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (33)

Bookmark and Share

It's funny.

Posted by: trostky on January 4, 2006 at 1:28 AM | PERMALINK

The granddaughter of William Mulholland (who brought the water to LA) lived down the street from us growing up. She was a nice old woman, and her mother (contrary to Chinatown - the bESteST movie of all time) was not the product of an incestuous relationship.

I don't know what that had to do with anything, but I couldn't think of anything else to say.

Posted by: Blue Nomad on January 4, 2006 at 1:37 AM | PERMALINK

Actually, what's even better - last time I checked, Sparkletts doesn't sell individual water bottles. They only do water coolers. Aren't water coolers, um, ALWAYS filled with bottled water? Because, um, that's why you get a water cooler? So, DWP is being criticized for... what? Having water coolers?

Posted by: Ripzaw on January 4, 2006 at 1:40 AM | PERMALINK

That's hilarious. I laughed out loud, as if this was Fafblog. Except (sobers down) it's not. It's reality. So is Fafblog more and more of the time.

Posted by: quixote on January 4, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

I wouldn't blame anyone for avoiding SoCal tap water no matter how safe it is.

Posted by: Boronx on January 4, 2006 at 1:54 AM | PERMALINK

And here's another bit for you.

Just think if the DWP had paid retail for that water.

A buck-eighty would get them a little over a single 1-litre bottle, per employee, per annum.

Posted by: Off Colfax on January 4, 2006 at 1:58 AM | PERMALINK

Just think if the DWP had paid retail for that water.

Or worse yet, bought it from the minibar.

Posted by: tom on January 4, 2006 at 2:27 AM | PERMALINK

I worked in a lot of office jobs in Los Angeles where there was no potable water supply anywhere, and we had to use bottled water machines. In many buildings it is considered cheaper and easier to just pay for bottled water than to add plumbing to provide tap water. So it doesn't surprise me to hear that even the DWP has to buy lots of bottled water.

Posted by: charlie don't surf on January 4, 2006 at 2:28 AM | PERMALINK

I think the reason offices buy bottled water, even if the city water is delicious and safe, is that there are no drinking fountains in a typical office building. Are you supposed to suck the water out of the sinks in the restrooms?

Posted by: The Screed on January 4, 2006 at 2:36 AM | PERMALINK

I'm new to this blog, but I don't get the IF Stone reference. Is it supposed to imply that Stone was a little too earnest when looking for stories?

Posted by: wks on January 4, 2006 at 2:47 AM | PERMALINK

Kevin, you should have seen the Great White House Web Site Cookie flap if you wanted an overblown story.

Posted by: tbrosz on January 4, 2006 at 3:46 AM | PERMALINK

uh, the IF Stone bit was sarcasm, wks.

tbrosz, you're a funny guy. comparing city employees drinking bottled water to massive spying on US citizens, even if the cookies part of the story was, indeed, but a small part of the crime.

Posted by: bluebird on January 4, 2006 at 4:16 AM | PERMALINK

That is the type of story that usually runs with a banner headline on the front of the Daily News. Suburban papers love to run stories about corruption in the big city. Especially if they were angling for Valley secession. Surprised to see it in the Times.

Posted by: HL Mungo on January 4, 2006 at 5:51 AM | PERMALINK

Funny, funny story ... and we had the same flap here in Detroit.

I don't know about L.A. but Detroit gets it's water from the Great Lakes and in National taste tests conducted at the annual AWWA conference (American Water Workers Association) Detroit's water is regularly among the top ten, often the top five. We're talking about some of the best tasting water in the nation!

And it turns out that the city administration has been being bottled water for it's downtown offices. To the tune of over one hundred thousand dollars a year. Once again Detroit has beat another city in a race to the bottom.

The arguments for the contact was the usual suspects... no water fountains in the cubical area, old, corroded pipes that taint the water, and "I'm going to do whatever it takes to take care of my employees"...

Of course if they wanted fresh water all they had to do was send one guy in a truck to a conveniently located water filtration plant that the City's Department of Water and Sewerage runs and fill up 20-30 five gallon water bottles, and distribute them around the office buildings. It would have to be cheaper than buying water - which the city has already filtered and sterilized - from a suburban vendor!

Posted by: beb on January 4, 2006 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

Remember - city water is constantly tested and has to meet certain standards. Bottled water does not.

I briefly worked for a consulting firm that had a lot of public utility clients. We had no bottled water, because it would look bad. But there was no really cold water to drink either.

Posted by: NotThatMo on January 4, 2006 at 7:45 AM | PERMALINK

I'm new to this blog, but I don't get the IF Stone reference.

Izzy is King.

That's all you need to know.

But it wouldn't hurt to read his 'Trial of Socrates' either.

Posted by: obscure on January 4, 2006 at 7:56 AM | PERMALINK

What can be done with people who have never heard of vending machines?

Posted by: Frank Wilhoit on January 4, 2006 at 7:59 AM | PERMALINK

I say Pulitizer!!!

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 4, 2006 at 8:56 AM | PERMALINK

Oh you funny, funny people who keep presenting logical arguments....

This is why Dems suck at campaigning. So obsessed with reality that they don't get the sinister metaphoric subtext and regard the cheap soundbite as "overblown".

It's all about hubris man! Imperial power! Waste! Government inefficiency and disregard for the taxpayer's dollar! Private water rules, because even the government buys it! I the servant of the taxpayer, am too good to drink my own (doubtless faulty or otherwise I'd be drinking it, and who would know better than I) product. That is all ye know, and all ye need know in Boy George's Swiftboat World.

This story will create great furor and result in great waste of time while some poor employee gets stuck with the job of refilling the 5-gallon jugs until the story dies down. It will still be cited in conservative journals 40+ years from now as reason why city water supplies should be turned over to more efficient private contractors. Tbroz will dine out on it for life.

Posted by: bluewave on January 4, 2006 at 8:57 AM | PERMALINK

Almost nine AM EST and no football threads yet.

Go Longhorns.

Posted by: thethirdPaul on January 4, 2006 at 9:06 AM | PERMALINK

Of course if they wanted fresh water all they had to do was send one guy in a truck to a conveniently located water filtration plant that the City's Department of Water and Sewerage runs and fill up 20-30 five gallon water bottles, and distribute them around the office buildings.

At our shop we pay $6 per 5 gallon bottle - delivered.

So you're saying that for the same money, $120-$180, you could have someone simply a) get a truck, b) fill 20-30 5-gal bottles, and then c) distribute the 5-gal bottles (at 80 pounds a pop - 1,600 to 2,000 pounds of water total) around the office buildings. Are you seriously suggesting that this all could be done for less than $200?

Yeah, right. That's a really efficient use of time and money. Not.

There's a reason companies specialize in this - you can't do the same for the same money.

Posted by: Thumb on January 4, 2006 at 9:36 AM | PERMALINK

tbroz, for once I have to admit you're not completely wrong about something. The White House cookie flap is overblown and compounded by public ignorance about browser cookies in general.

Browsers are only allowed to show a cookie to the web site that set it. ( All browsers follow this rule. )

If you visit site A and site A sets a cookie, then you go to site B, site B *can not* see the site A cookie.

BUT, if you visit site A, and site A has an embedded advertisement from ad site X, ad site X can set a cookie that it can read, and ad site X knows that you're on site A ( site A is getting money from the ad site, so they know the risk too )

then you go to site B, and if site B has an embedded ad from the same ad site X, then ad site X will know you've been to both site A *and* site B.

This is not so much a spying issue as a gossip issue. Cookies *and* embedded ads make it possible for the ad companies to know what sites you visit.

Solution? Get Mozilla, Firefox or Konqueror and set the "Cookie Manager" to block cookies and/or to ask you about each cookie before saving. Then say no-don't-save to any cookie coming from a web site that doesn't match the one you're looking at. Eventually you will have a list of cookie blocked sites that will be mostly advertisors.

Or just avoid ad heavy sites. ( Kevin's being the exception :)

( butt-covering note: Opera may have cookie management too, not sure. IE doesn't. But then, you're not using IE anyhow since it's like leaving your front door open and going on vacation. )

( butt-covering note #2: This does *not* mean that I think tbroz is right about anything in general. )

Posted by: Archie on January 4, 2006 at 10:09 AM | PERMALINK

I am certain the bottled water was for the big shots, not for the average employees.

Posted by: Powerpuff on January 4, 2006 at 10:23 AM | PERMALINK

Powerpuff:Why? No, I'm serious about this.

This is freeking LA. I'm sure it gets damn hot there. And they have people working outside, I'm sure. Providing bottled water in such a situation makes good sense, from a fiscal point of view. Only 90k? Sounds like a steal, especially when you're probably gaining 100ks worth of productivity.

Posted by: Karmakin on January 4, 2006 at 11:24 AM | PERMALINK

Ahh..ignore my previous statement. I just read that Sparklett's only provides large bottles of water. Sorry. I'm so far away from LA it's not even funny.

Even still, there are some cases where providing water coolers makes more economic sense. Places that lack kitchenettes, or have problems with the pipes that would be way more expensive to replace/fix.

Posted by: Karmakin on January 4, 2006 at 11:26 AM | PERMALINK

They should just refill their water cooler bottles with tap water rather than spend on new, unopened bottles. That is probably what Sparkletts does anyway.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on January 4, 2006 at 11:48 AM | PERMALINK

LA water is the best water money can steal.

Posted by: pebird on January 4, 2006 at 12:28 PM | PERMALINK

Just to put my 2 cents in. At work, we removed the mechanical water coolers that used tap water because of the lead that was leaching into the water of the one's that got little usage and replaced them with bottled water. The other issue was the electricity that they were using was a 365 issue.
If you have an old mechanical cooler some where around and about, you might take a sample for testing just for fun. We have copper water pipes at home that are soldered with lead based solder, not the new no lead based stuff. I suspect that a lot of commercial buildings have lead soldered pipes in them too.
If I had a kid at home I would be using bottled water for drinking.
Just my 2 cents.
Have a good year all.

Posted by: DILBERT DOGERT on January 4, 2006 at 12:59 PM | PERMALINK

Bottled water contains chemicals that are exuded by the plastic bottle (eg plasticizers, which make the plastic more flexible). Is that worse? Better? Nobody really knows.

Posted by: jefff on January 4, 2006 at 2:06 PM | PERMALINK

Powepuff/Karmakin --

The bottled water was not forbig-shots according to the DWP. They claim the bottled water was primarily for people working outside of the office. (I don't know if "primarily" means closer to 51% or 99%, but that is their story.)

This is overblown, considering that their budget is measured in Billions of $, but it is bad PR since DWP is rolling out rate hikes.

Posted by: Dan on January 4, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

I live in NYC which has some of the best tap water in the US and even we drink bottled water or cooler water at work.

In LA where the water is potable but hardly tasty it seems to me obvious that you would use bottled stuff.

Posted by: Kate on January 4, 2006 at 4:00 PM | PERMALINK

I don't see why everyone's piling onto the bottled-water half of the story and neglecting the $1M-over-two-years "Drink L.A. Tap Water! It's Excellent!" ad campaign half. That looks like the greater waste to me. Was the water so bad before that it was necessary to spend a million bucks to tell people, hey, it's safe to drink now? If you were in city government and had a spare million to toy around with, would you spend it on getting people to drink the tap water? Even if you drank it yourself, which you probably wouldn't?

Posted by: waterfowl on January 4, 2006 at 4:58 PM | PERMALINK

Nobody drinks tap water anymore unless you just can't afford it or are too lazy to realize or care that it's garbage.

Posted by: Jimm on January 4, 2006 at 5:32 PM | PERMALINK



Read Jonathan Rowe remembrance and articles
Email Newsletter icon, E-mail Newsletter icon, Email List icon, E-mail List icon Sign up for Free News & Updates

Advertise in WM

buy from Amazon and
support the Monthly