Universities Going Bottled Water-Free -- Who's Next?

It’s nice to get some good news in the form of a small but important victory from the field: Pacific University has banned the sale of bottled water. Starting in August, no one will be able to purchase bottled water on campus or access bottled water through official university functions. Congratulations to the students and alumni who made it happen!

Even though Pacific University is a smaller school than, let’s say, Portland State University (PSU), this is still a great win for water advocates across the country. Why make the comparison between the two schools? Sometimes you have to read between the lines to get to the heart of the story.

The article that appeared in The Times mentions that PSU is “shying away from an all-out ban and opting for other policies, such as adding hydration stations, where students can fill their reusable water bottles.” The Times interviewed a student who believes that a ban is 5-10 years away and somehow supports the notion by mentioning that the school’s environmental club has a membership of a mere 10-30 students as compared to the total number of students: 27,000, according to the student and 28,035, according to the university’s website. Let’s not give up so easy, eh?

Lisa Meersman, Food & Water Watch’s campus representative at PSU, shared some other interesting statistics about bottled water at the school.

1.    Portland State University currently has over 1,500 signatures that support a ban of bottled water.
2.    Portland State University is home to a student led Take Back the Tap campaign that works closely with the university’s Office of Sustainability and Facilities to reach their goal of banning bottled water campus-wide.
3.    The Take Back the Tap club has ongoing grant money supporting a fund — established through the sales of reusable water canteens — that provides money for water filling stations throughout campus. There are currently nine filling stations. (They used to call them water fountains.)
4.    The Student Building Fee Committee has made $37,000 in grants funds available to install 14 additional refilling stations on campus.
5.    Portland State University regularly hosts a Water Awareness Week, which educates students about the negative impact of bottled water.
6.    Take Back the Tap leaders also worked with the student senate at PSU to pass a resolution this year banning the use of student fees on bottled water.

If Pacific University, the University of Portland and Southern Oregon University have all banned bottled-water sales on campus, could PSU be far behind?  And, if PSU creates an environment that encourages the consumption of tap water in reusable bottles and educates students about the negative impacts of bottled water, it’s hard to believe that a ban on bottled water would take as long as ten years.
I’m feeling pretty positive about our battle against bottled water. I’ve decided, right now as I write this, that I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction: within three years, no one will be able to purchase bottled water on Portland State University’s campus or access bottled water through official university functions.

Why such a bold prediction? I believe that most of the students currently at PSU (and the ones who will attend the school within the next few years) care about the environment and about protecting public resources. I believe that younger generations of water advocates in Oregon will be well positioned to make it happen, thanks to solid outreach and solid research.

So, there it is: PSU will be bottled water-free within three years. (Come on, Vikings! Help me out here, will ya?) I don’t know what I’ll be doing three years from now, but will you look me up when it happens? Thanks!

Food & Water Watch / By Rich Bindell | Sourced from

Posted at July 22, 2011, 8:03am

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