Could Cincinnati make money by bottling the city's water?
It is an idea that is part of an effort to pay for much needed repairs and maintenance for Cincinnati's aging sewer system.
Cincinnati City Council approved a water rate increase on Wednesday. The original proposal was to raise the rate by 7.5 percent but council voted that down. A week later, they compromised with a 4 percent increase that will go into effect in 6 months.
However, a rate hike wasn't the only proposed idea to raise money for the sewer projects. Councilman Wendell Young suggested bottling Cincinnati's water and selling it for profit.
"We've got to find a way to increase the revenue and that takes somebody smarter than me but the message is clear. You can't keep beating up the taxpayer with these increases and we have to maintain the system. We've got to find a better way," said Councilman Young.
The city of Hamilton is already bottling their tap water. It started out in 2010 when they received the distinction of best tap water in the world at the Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Competition. It got residents asking for their tap water in bottles and the city wondering if profit could be made.
"We donate our water to non-profit organizations. We do sell a small amount to businesses in town," said John Bui, Director of Underground Utilities for the city of Hamilton.
It's called ‘Hamilton on Tap.'
It is the city's award winning tap water sold in bottles but it's not exactly a huge money maker. Bui says they mainly use the small scale bottling process as a public service. When they looked at trying to make a profit, it just didn't work.
"Actually, we are not making any money. We are losing money producing this water," said Bui. He said they would have to put in more capital investments and a larger facility to make a profit.
But other cities have found a way around that. A study by Food and Water Watch found a huge spike starting in 2005 of municipalities selling their excess water supply to major bottling companies who put it through a filtration process, bottle it and sell it back to consumers.
As for Cincinnati making their own labeled water, Bui says it is possible but the capital investment won't be cheap.
"It may or may not make sense after you get in depth with your research," said Bui.
Cincinnati Water Works says they will be happy to look at the bottling water solution or any other idea the council has at their direction. Meanwhile, water rates could potentially rise another 11 percent next year.
Related: Council approves water rate hike
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