Right off the bat, Iceland is not trying to outlaw water. How could they, as it is the most essential cornerstone to human or any life for that matter? However, they are trying to combat a problem, arising through the consumption of water, more concretely the consumption of bottled water.
With a population, just shy of 350,000 inhabitants and a surface area of roughly 103,000 square kilometres, Iceland is considered the most sparsely populated country in Europe, including continental Europe. Considering these statistics, it is no wonder that the tourist influx, in 2017 2.1 million people visited the island nation, has put a strain on the economy.
Not only the increased emissions and waste, but mostly the increased use of plastic bottles. Therefore, the Icelandic government is urging tourists to stop buying plastic bottles, not only because of the environmental reasons but because they are immensely overpriced. The most unreasonable part of buying these bottles is that Icelandic tap water quality is one of the best, if not the best in the world. The Icelandic environment agency (IEA) wants to convey the message to the tourists to ditch and give up on single-use plastic bottles as these are at the pinnacle of the strain put on the environment by tourism.
Nevertheless, the IEA does not solely blame the tourists as it states in an official communication with “The Telegraph”, that “with increased tourism, we need to do better at informing our guests about the water quality of tap water in Iceland, with the main achievement being the reduction of unnecessary plastic consumption”.
In other terms, according to the IEA, tourists are predominately buying bottled water because they are oblivious to the good water quality of the tap water that you have in Iceland. This means that as soon as you have a bottle, you will essentially have an unlimited water supply and any bottle that you buy afterwards is unnecessary waste, as you can fill up your bottle literally at any tap.
Aside from the immediate effects, the IEA hopes to promote the awareness among tourists as well as Icelanders about the unnecessary plastic pollution that the consumption of bottled still water has on the environment, as a large chunk of these single-use bottles end up in landfills or in the ocean.
The IEA’s ultimate goal is to inform and get people to take a reusable bottle with them as they are on the go. They add that Icelandic water quality is “truly great” and that it deserves a better and less stigmatised public image. Environmental campaigners welcomed the proposal and pointed out the ridiculous fact that at certain times, the price for one litre of bottled water exceeds the price of one litre of petrol.
In conclusion, this is one of many ways that Iceland tries to limit the impact that tourism and humans in general have on the environment. Especially considering that Iceland ranks first in the world in terms of water and sanitation standards, it would be far better to drink Icelandic tap water than industrially packaged water. Although there are diverse measures to counteract the effects that global warming has on the idyllic fishing villages dotted along the coast, they become increasingly at risk from sea level rise and general pollution.