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Great Lakes Committee

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Great Lakes Committee at The Public Market Taste Test Tap vs Bottled Water October 4, 2014 from 9am-1pm RESULTS!

On Saturday, Oct 4 members of the Great Lakes Committee visited the public market for an unofficial taste test to help people determine if there was a difference in taste between bottled water and tap water.  People tasted sample “A” and then sample “B”.  The overwhelming majority of people chose tap water on the issue of taste.  The results are below:

Sample A - Bottled Water

Sample B -    Tap Water

No Difference




Many people who formerly purchased bottled water learned that they can save money by drinking good, clean, affordable City of Rochester and Monroe County tap water!  

In addition to taste people learned about

1. the cost of bottled water (a 16 oz bottle costs approximately 2000 times more than tap water and on a per gallon basis costs about 2 times more than gasoline!)

2. the environmental cost of bottled water (requires energy and water to produce, fossil fuel to transport, fossil fuel to recycle.

3. 40% of all bottled water is actually municipal tap water put into bottles.

4. We can easily determine the quality of our municipal tap water because testing is done on a regular basis and available for review.  The quality of bottled water is not apparent or easily available.



Great Lakes Committee Goals

1. Advocacy to our legislators state and national

Attend the Great Lakes Days in Washington as a part of Healing Our Waters (HOW) initiative

Go to Albany to meet with state legislators (upcoming May 1st)


2. Education to our committee

At committee meetings we often have a speaker for the first 45 minutes and then we discuss other topics/projects for the remainder of the meeting.


3. Implementation locally of actions to raise community awareness of water issues

Showing films and leading discussions on Great Lakes issues at Monroe County libraries

On the local sierra club website (

& the facebook page

we are starting a conversation about water saving ideas

Participate in beach cleanups

Reaching Out

Holly Wheeler - Great Lakes Committee

Facebook:  The Great Lakes Committee is working on sharing our mission and communicating with a larger audience.  We’ve created a new Facebook page. Please “like” us at Great Lakes Committee Rochester Regional Sierra Club to stay informed on our upcoming events, follow links to Great Lakes Resources and share your ideas regarding our water.

Survey Monkey:  Another new initiative from our committee is the development of a water conservation survey. Please take a few minutes to complete this survey at . The results will help our committee plan future educational events in our community.

During our meeting in September (see dates and times on the right hand column of the website) we will use a computer projector to navigate these sites so that all our members are familiar with them.

Lake Ontario

Saving Water

Laura Arney – Great Lakes Committee

The Great Lakes Committee invites you to participate in protecting our water.  Precious is the water which is pure and clean. It refreshes the body. Water makes the earth productive and green. It supports life. Why do we need to worry? Americans use water at an astonishing rate and the clouds can’t recycle the water quickly. This summer we saw record amounts of drought which took a toll on our water reserves without much replenishment.  Climate change is affecting rain fall - water can’t be taken for granted.

The water in our Great Lakes is mostly ancient water, derived from the glaciers melting. Native rain only returns annually 1% of the water in the five Great Lakes. Our watershed is small and population is large-Detroit, Chicago, Toronto, Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse.

Where do we begin? With you! I bet you already do some things that contribute to water savings. We are collecting ideas and actions for saving water. We want to publish these ideas on our webpage to share how simple steps can make an impact. 

Think about these categories of water use:

1) drinking, cooking, preparing food

2) producing food

3) cleaning

4) nurturing plants, animals and trees.

5) using energy (energy production = lots of water)

Here are some water conservation ideas that we’ve received.

  *  I switched over every sink (gradually) to single lever control to allow me to set the water temp more efficiently, reducing water lost that is too hot or cold.

  *  I don’t run the water to clear the pipes of old water. I close the sink drain and run water into the basin. I use that water to wash my hands especially if I have been digging in the dirt. In the kitchen I use a bowl in one basin to collect water to start dish washing.

  *  I wet my hands then use my forearm to shut down the flow. Working in the soap and scrubbing with the water off, use my forearm again to turn the water flow back on.

Outdoor water
 *  I wash my car on the lawn, not the driveway, using biodegradable soap. I don’t want the soapy water to flow to the storm drain, going to the treatment plant and the lake. The water filters into the earth and the natural critters process the soap. The vegetation benefits from the water and the water table underground receives filtered water.

I don’t flush the toilets every time I empty my bladder.

Showers or tub
  *  I collect water in a pan while I wait for the water to reach a nice temperature instead of letting it be wasted down the drain. This water can be used for cleaning or collected for house plants.

This is just a start.  Send us your ideas so we can learn from each other to conserve and protect our water!  Here are some ways to give us your ideas:

Email us at:

or use our Facebook site: Great Lakes Committee Rochester Regional Sierra Club

or take the survey online at:

Great Lakes Committee as part of the Healing Our Water (HOW) Coalition

The Great Lakes Committee of the Rochester Regional Sierra Club has been an active participant in the Healing our Water coalition.  We have taken part in conferences, lobbying efforts and activities to bring awareness and funding to Great Lakes restoration and protection.  Working together with other groups has enabled our small committee to have a big impact.  

There are two events that members of our committee attend:

1.   The Great Lakes Restoration Conference annually in September

2.   Great Lakes Lobby Days in DC annually in late February or early March.  Below is an article from a member who attended the HOW Lobbying Days in Washington, DC in  February 2012.

Great Lakes Lobbying Days

– Washington D.C.  February 28th and 29th, 2012

Janet MacLeod, Great Lakes Committee

In past years other members of our Great Lakes Committee have attended the Great Lakes Lobbying Days in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the Healing Our Waters Coalition.  It was a first for me.  Only after having gone there can I now fully appreciate the energy and enthusiasm that others of our committee have expressed upon their return to Rochester!  What creates this reaction?  The opportunity to learn from seasoned environmentalists and Great Lakes groups who provide their perspectives and knowledge to the mix along with actually sitting down with New York State representatives face-to-face in their D.C. offices to discuss lake concerns with them. 

The pre-lobbying training we received on day one was extremely helpful in not only informing us of all current Great Lakes legislation, but key issues to focus on in our discussions, along with a good sense of where the parties stand in general regarding Great Lakes issues.   We saw representatives in small teams of usually 6 or 7 of us following a well planned meeting schedule – usually allowing about 20 to 30 minutes per visit.  Our co-leader and lake property owner, Kate Kremer, was able to offer testimonial in support of the lake level plan (current Plan B, Version 7).  Her opportunity to make a statement was very timely and I believe they listened.  

Our first evening culminated with an impressive reception at the Canadian Embassy.  And yes, I believe the bulk of our chatting related to our day lobbying, but folks had an opportunity to mingle and sample hearty hors d’oeuvres and yes, drink Canadian beer while networking.

The second day focused entirely on our meetings with representatives or their staffers.  My final session was with our very own Louise Slaughter who, without skipping a beat, began talking about why the new lake level plan was necessary.  As an aside, she also spoke of how disappointed she was to learn that Olympia Snow announced she was no longer running for office since she was a voice of reason. 

I met some wonderful, sincere people who had traveled to D.C. – some on their own dime - from all of the Great Lakes states which in itself reinforces a sense of accomplishment and positivity.  But I wondered (aloud), do we really make a difference?  The unanimous response was, “yes”, we do because our presence and voices create salience for Great Lakes concerns which are competing with a myriad of others issues our legislators are asked to take a stand on.

Lake Levels and the Common Good

By Kate Kremer, Co-Chair Great Lakes Committee

Lake OntarioThe Great Lakes, including Lake Ontario, are in crisis. The human impact on Lake Ontario has grown so large that it is putting the future viability of a healthy lake at risk. A discussion of the current “lake level” issue exemplifies how we can engage in solutions that are for the common good of the environment and the people who live in it.

Since 1958, Lake Ontario has had a human-regulated water level for the purpose of protecting lake shore land owners and providing optimal water levels for the Montreal Harbor, shipping and hydroelectric power. Lake water level regulation has not historically taken into consideration the health of the ecosystem. Little fluctuation and higher water levels have destroyed many wetlands and decreased species diversity. The International Joint Commission (IJC), the Canadian and American body responsible for setting water level policy, has worked diligently for several years on this issue, eliciting local citizen and governmental agency feedback. The IJC recently proposed a new lake level plan that is being called “BV7” that addresses some of the limitations of earlier policy by restoring some of the natural flow and fluctuation. The public comment period ends June 15, 2012. ( )

This is positive progress and yet how did we continue for 50 years taking into consideration the needs of some stakeholders but not the health of the lake itself? Without an overall policy, we cannot adequately protect the rights of the public and of future generations to a healthy lake that can be used for multiple purposes by both individuals and the community. Jim Olson, the keynote speaker at our Sierra Club Forum on April 19, will discuss principles of public trust and how we can apply them to protecting our water as a common good in Western New York.

Water has always been the lifeblood of a society. Ancient cities were built along great rivers to provide for agriculture, hygiene and transportation. Peoples of ancient times were so keenly attuned to their reliance on water that they established the basic principle that waterways are owned in common and must be available for multiple uses by citizens. Jim Olson and Maude Barlow in their Report to the International Joint Commission on the Principles of the Public Trust Doctrine(November 30, 2011) trace this principle to the Codes of Rome and then to the Magna Carta and highlight it as a viable tool for protecting our water today. Olson and Barlow quote the Justinian Codes of Rome in 529 A.D.: “The following things are by natural law common to all – the air, running water, the sea and consequently the sea shore… but they cannot be said to belong to any one as private property, but rather are subject to the same law as the sea itself…” They explain how this “Public Trust Doctrine” has been adopted by the federal government and state legislatures and upheld by the courts in the United States.

In the case of the Great Lakes States, Barlow and Olson have outlined ways in which each state has laws, regulations and court cases that establish the principle of public trust related to waters. For example, they quote New York State’s Environmental Conservation Law as follows: “all the waters of the state are valuable public natural resources held in trust by this state, and this state has a duty as trustee to manage its waters effectively for the use and enjoyment of present and future residents and for the protection of the environment.” N.Y. Environmental Conservation Law section 15-1601 (McKinney 2011).  The Public Trust Doctrine is a powerful tool that can provide a framework for viewing the long term health of the lake in every action that we take. It can give us the authority to fight against all actions that constitute a “taking” of the water and to fight any actions that would limit the use of the water by the public.

This is especially important as we look at these new standards recently put forth by the IJC as to how we will determine the levels of Lake Ontario for the next 50 years. There will be many interests that will speak in response to the document. The Public Trust Doctrine can help us to weigh these voices against the common good of the public to a clean and healthy lake that is sustained into the future. This will benefit all the stakeholders, public and private, and can provide common ground for moving forward.

The Great Lakes Committee meets monthly and works together to educate ourselves and the community, and provide advocacy on local and regional Great Lakes issues like the BV7 lake level plan. Come join us!

BV7 Lake Level Plan Informational Links:

The International Joint Commission (IJC) has made additional information available online about Plan Bv7, a plan for regulating water levels and flows in Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River that is currently under consideration. This information includes:

-          Graphs:

-          A technical description of Plan Bv7

-          Times and locations of Public Information Sessions:  

-          Written comments about Plan Bv7 are invited and may be submitted via website:

-          Nature Conservancy Details regarding Bv7:

Books and Movies on Water Issues


by Susan Stinson

The GLC is raising awareness of the harm due to proliferation of bottled water. In promoting the use of tap water, instead of bottled, we worked with a local Girl Scout troop to construct a display at the Brighton Library in February, 2009. Two GLC workshops included activities that introduced the troop to new concepts. For example:

• A blind water taste test and a survey of types of water their families used introduced the girls to the cost of bottled vs. tap water. \

• A simplified demonstration of water filtration fascinated the girls, and led them to suggest additional ideas for experimenting with water filtration. It was inspirational to see the enthusiasm of the girls in participating and learning about an issue that is part of their every day life. We felt that we provided the girls a meaningful educational activity.

The Sierra Club pamphlet, “Bottled Water”, recommends several actions to take to reduce the use of bottled water:

• AVOID using BOTTLED WATER unless absolutely necessary.

• Drink from REUSABLE METAL CONTAINERS filled with tap water when traveling.

• At public events and at home, OFFER PITCHERS of water. • Talk to your favorite restaurants about NOT offering bottled water.

• Help ensure that GOOD QUALITY TAP WATER is available to everyone in your community at an affordable price.

• Advocate for adequate funding and GOOD PUBLIC MANAGEMENT of MUNICIPAL WATER systems. For information about your local drinking water, go to Drinking Water Protection Program

• Advocate for strict state and local groundwater laws to PROTECT AQUIFERS and other water resources.

• Protect our rivers, streams, and wetlands from POLLUTION to assure high quality public water supplies.

To learn more about the Sierra Club’s bottled water campaign, .

Another good resource on water actions is 

Meeting Times and Places

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What: Great Lakes Committee Meeting - When: Tuesday, October 28, 6:30 – 8:30pm     

Where:  Asbury First United Methodist Church, “1010 Building” located at 1010 East Ave. Rochester, NY 14607 

Upcoming meetings

Specific Dates listed below for 2014-2015 year

  • Sept 23 - Meeting
  • Oct 28 -  Meeting
  • Nov 18  -  Meeting.  Changed to the third Tuesday due to holiday.
  • Dec 16 -  Meeting.  Changed to the third Tuesday due to holiday.
  • Jan 27 -  Meeting
  • Feb 24 - Meeting
  • Mar 24 - Meeting
  • Apr 28 - Meeting
  • May 26 - Meeting
  • June Planning Meeting  (date and location to be determined)

Upcoming Activities

Saturday October 4

9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Public Market:

Nature at the Market!  - The Great Lakes Committee will participate in this new initiative that seeks to engage the people at the Public Market in Environmental Issues.  We will offer Tap vs Bottled Water taste testing and promote our message that Tap water is a good alternative to Bottled water.  

This initiative, sponsored generously by Hunt Engineers/Architects/Land Surveyors, is the result of a vision to share important environmental information with the folks from all walks of life that attend the Market on busy Saturdays. Nature at the Market will feature lively displays by the participating environmental organizations--like yours!--from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on select Market Saturdays. We envision these displays being highly engaging and interactive, to pique the interest of both adults and youth.

Contact for more information