No sooner had we written the account of Croton water’s victory in the county’s “taste-off,” than we remembered that Robert Scott had suggested in print that our Croton water, labeled as such, could profitably be bottled by the village or by one of the major soft-drink giants under franchise and help to offset increasingly large tax increases.
His proposal originally appeared in the April 7, 2005, issue of The Gazette, as the lead item in his regular column titled “Nobody asked me, but…” When interviewed about what the village had done about his proposal, Mr. Scott’s answer was, “To my knowledge, nothing, zip, zilch, nada. This is not surprising in a village that can spend a million and a half dollars on attorneys and consultants, but will venture nothing to explore the potential of the millions of gallons of pure water that overflows the Croton Dam and courses through the Croton River gorge to the Hudson as if it were waste water.”
Mr. Scott continued, “In 1842, when water from the Croton River was successfully conveyed to New York City through the Croton Aqueduct, the citizens were absolutely ecstatic over the precious commodity they called ‘Croton water.’ It gave ready availability to potable, pure water and spelled an end to pestilence and water-borne diseases. ‘Croton water’ is a cachet that means something special and desirable even to this day. One might have thought that Croton would have exhibited the foresight to trademark the term, ‘Croton water.’ But that’s expecting too much of this self-absorbed, litigious village so willing to expend taxpayers’ hard-earned monies contentiously at the drop of a hat.”
Here is the text of Mr. Scott’s eminently reasonable suggestion: It is reprinted here with permission of the copyright owner.
“A modest proposal. Many Westchester communities are facing a double-digit leap in taxes, but Croton may be sitting on a veritable gold mine. The village has an untapped natural resource: its sweet-tasting water. Drawn from deep wells in aquifers within the bed of the glacial river that carved the Croton Gorge, Croton’s water is naturally filtered in these ancient sands and gravels. A former Croton resident visiting from California recently dismissed the village’s charms with the statement, ‘The only thing I miss is Croton’s water.’
“More than half of all Americans drink bottled water today. Sales have exploded and profit margins are astronomical. Bottled water now ranks second among beverages, surpassing milk, coffee and beer. Thanks to heavy advertising, the conventional wisdom is that it’s cleaner, safer and better regulated than tap water. It isn’t. After testing more than a hundred brands of bottled water, the Natural Resources Defense Council found that a third contained ‘bacterial contaminants.’ Several brands contained synthetic organic chemicals or inorganic contaminants.
“Deceptive labeling is common, often featuring stylized drawings of mountains, springs and lakes. One bottled water labeled ‘spring water’ actually came from an industrial parking lot next to a hazardous waste site. Other empty terms commonly used on labels include pure, pristine, glacial, natural, purified, premium and mountain water. Three companies account for more than half of bottled water sales in the United States: Pepsico (Aquafina), Coca-Cola (Dasani) and Nestlé (Arrowhead). Surprisingly, many bottled waters are drawn from the municipal system serving the bottler’s area. They are then filtered or disinfected before being bottled. In Memphis, Tenn., Pepsico’s bottler of Aquafina uses municipal water; in Little Rock, Ark., Coca-Cola’s bottler of Dasani uses municipal water. But no municipal water system can equal the quality of Croton water.
“Croton should consider the potential of its valuable liquid resource to lighten the tax burden on residents. In Briarcliff in the early days of the last century, Walter Law’s Briarcliff Farms bottled and sold its Briarcliff Table Water Company water in New York City. This could never happen today. Many Briarcliff residents assert that the village’s water is not even fit to shower in.
“First should come a study of the feasibility of a village-owned plant to bottle, label and sell Croton Water. Such a facility could be set up anywhere in the village zoned for such use. Alternatively, Croton could invite one of the major beverage giants to construct and operate such a plant to bottle and sell Croton Water under a licensing arrangement.
“Croton water’s reputation for purity is widely known, largely spread by Crotonites who have settled in other parts of the country. Anyone who now drinks bottled water could become a customer. Sales might be even larger than anticipated. Just ask residents of neighboring communities about the taste and quality of their water.”
Croton owes a debt of appreciation to Mr. Scott, a sometime nagging journalist who has proved to be the conscience of Croton on many issues. More than a year of apparent inaction has gone by, so Crotonblog is forced to ask the Mayor of the village of Croton-on-Hudson, whose administration had been in charge during the year since Mr. Scott’s suggestion was first made, “What’s up, Doc?”