Kimberly Primicerio photo

Tap water advocates held a press conference on Wednesday urging the state to “Think Outside the Bottle.”

Organizers for the “Think Outside the Bottle” campaign want the state to cut spending on bottled water and remove bottled water, including water coolers, from state buildings.

“In this state, and across the globe, water corporations are transforming a public resource into a high-priced luxury,” said Caitlin Cornor-Dolloff, Connecticut’s organizer for Corporate Accountability International.

The campaign is calling on the state to stop spending taxpayer money on bottled water, since the public already is spending millions of dollars annually to make sure their water supply is safe and clean.

State agencies are spending roughly $500,000 a year for bottled water and water dispensers, Corner-Dolloff said. State taxpayers also spend $4 million a year to make sure local water supplies are safe and clean, she added.

The Rev. Tom Carr, of the First Baptist Church of West Hartford, took the campaign’s call to another level.

“Water is a sacred gift. It’s our fundamental right,” Carr said. “It’s not intended to be owned.”

Carr said embracing and preserving the state’s existing water systems is the first step to ridding the state of its dependency on bottled water.

John Zito, owner of Hartford’s Alchemy Juice Bar Café, does not sell bottled water in his restaurant. Zito said selling of bottled water takes people’s inherited right to the resource and sells it back to them for more than ExxonMobil charges for gasoline.

“Eliminating bottled water is a small but necessary step to reach sustainability,” Zito said, adding that he wants to see more “green” changes. He serves only organic food in his restaurant and said he is excited at the possibility of the state changing its policy.

West Hartford Mayor Scott Slifka has not spent any money on bottled water for the past year.

“There’s lots of things that are nice to have, but we can’t have this,” Slifka said. “It’s not necessary to buy bottled water with taxpayers’ money.”

Cavities and tooth decay also can result from the continuous consumption of bottled water, according to the campaign.

Carolyn J. Malon, president of the Hartford Dental Society, said tap water contains fluoride, while the amount of fluoride in each bottle of water varies. Some have it and some don’t, she said. The information also is not listed on the bottle.

Rep. Beth Bye, D-West Hartford, drinks tap water daily by filling up her stainless steel water bottle. She refrains from using the Poland Spring water coolers located throughout the Capitol and Legislative Office Building. Bye said bottled water undermines people’s confidence in tap water. If the state does cut spending on bottled water, state buildings could purchase $300 spigots to add to water fountains so that people could fill up their bottles.