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Filtered Water Stations Diminish Use of Plastic Bottles

news-filtered-waterThe University has begun installing filtered hydration stations around campus so students will be able to refill and reuse old water bottles.

“We are looking for every opportunity we can find to increase sustainability,” said Patti Swannack, Vice President for Administrative Services. “This is a huge sustainability issue because it saves plastic bottles.”

According to the University’s Environmental Assessment Semi-Annual Report, the stations will be installed in the Rebecca Stafford Student Center, Multipurpose Activity Center (MAC) and Edison Science Hall. The stations will comply with standards set forth in the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and allow for students to refill their bottles hands-free at no charge.

The stations filter tap water that comes from preexisting water lines, like those connected to water fountains. The water is filtered and cooled in succession, allowing for instant and hands-free pouring. The hands-free, straight to bottle feature of the system also makes the stations more hygienic than standard water fountains.

“I like that the school has a hydration station because I bring a water bottle to school every day, but usually finish it before the day is over and have to buy another drink,” said Katie Zaccarelli, a senior. “Now I can save money and just refill my bottle. Also water fountains in general use to gross me out because it was always warm and you never could get enough, but now this is much better.”

Students can save money by using these stations as Americans spend about $11 billion per year on bottled water. Makers of the hydration statio

news-filtered-water-2ns are hoping to turn this trend around as the machines become more popular.

Each station also saves an average of 36,000 16.9 ounce water bottles per year and has a visible counter that tracks how many bottles have been saved based on the amount of water dispensed. As of last Monday, the machines in the MAC had saved more than 9,000 bottles and the Student Center had saved more than 3,000 bottles. More than 39 billion water bottles were used in the U.S. in 2008, but only about 31 percent of them were recycled. The hydration stations seek to minimize this problem.

“This is a win-win for everybody,” Swannack said. She added that her office received many positive emails from students on the day that the stations were installed.

The University also is hoping to install machines that will allow students to register themselves and receive cards which they can use every time that they use the stations to recycle. The points students receive can be redeemed for rewards. Swannack also hopes these machines will be used for campus fundraising activities.

More than 300 hydration stations have been installed in colleges and universities across the nation since 2011, but there are different types of stations because they are produced by different companies like Brita and Elkay. Some colleges are even considering banning or reducing the amount of bottled water sold on campus. In many colleges, students are behind the push to ban bottles, such as Iowa State University where the student government passed the resolution to lower the amount of bottled water sold on their campus.

The new hydration stations are a part of the University’s green initiative which already includes solar panels and greenhouse gas reduction. Its efforts helped it be recognize as an environmentally responsible colleges in the U.S. and Canada, according to The Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges.

PHOTO COURTEST of Joanna Zietar