Take the taste test

- January 27, 2011

Gillian Pritchard
Health promotions student Gillian Pritchard is investigating more sustainable options to bottled water on campus. (Nick Pearce Photo)

Unconvinced that tap water really is as good, if not better, than bottled water? Why not take part in a blind tasting that compares bottled water and tap water. Drop by the main lobby of the SUB on Friday, January 28 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and taste for yourself.

The event is hosted by the SustainDal water committee, a student group interested in exploring more sustainable sources for water on campus. Eventually, SustainDal would like to see Dalhousie join a growing list of universities that have banned the sale of bottled water on campus.

The SustainDal water committee is led by Gillian Pritchard, a fourth-year health promotions student from Elgin, Ont. Ms. Pritchard was struck by the environmental impact of single use plastic water bottles after attending a Sierra Youth conference in 2008. She would ultimately like to see Dalhousie ban bottled water on campus.

'More sustainable options'

Ms. Pritchard is quick to clarify, “it’s not like we’re going to be policing this policy and ripping plastic water bottles out of people’s hands or anything! We just want to ban the sale of bottled water on campus and provide more sustainable options.”

SustainDal has already made some impressive strides in this direction.

In 2008, the water committee conducted an independent assessment of all 117 water fountains on the three Dalhousie campuses. The results were widely varied, from pristine, clean-tasting water in some buildings, to fountains with water hot enough to brew tea with in others.

SustainDal took its study on campus water fountains to the President’s Advisory Council on Sustainability. As a result, a sub committee was formed to look at campus water issues more closely. Currently, the sub committee is working with Halifax Water to test every fountain and tap on campus to ensure the water is safe to drink. So far, the results have been very encouraging.

The SustainDal water committee also took its results to Facilities Management who they have been working with to install new fountains and clean up existing ones around campus.

“We see it as working to eliminate the amount of plastic bottles in the waste stream of the university. The new fountains we’re installing have a counter on them. Every time a bottle is filled, that is one less plastic bottle and we can keep track of those numbers,” says Lewis MacDonald from Facilities Management.

Starting the conversation

Eliminating bottled water on campus is not as simple as not stocking it in vending machines and food services outlets. Viable alternatives need to be made available to ensure everybody on campus can still access clean drinking water.

“We are working to start the conversation on bottled versus tap water at different levels around campus,” says Ms. Pritchard. “This is already being addressed at an institutional level with the sub committee, but it is a conversation that needs to be happening everywhere.”

Presently, of the 117 fountains on campus, none are located near food service outlets on campus. To this end, SustainDal has partnered with The Blue W, a non-profit organization that supports municipal water. Participating organizations display a Blue W decal which means they will provide fresh, clean tap water without pressure to make a purchase. Currently, there are six locations on campus that display the Blue W decal.

“We’ve got some of the best water in North America, so why not take advantage of it?” says Ms. Pritchard.

LINKS: SustainDal Water Committee | The Blue W initiative


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