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SEA Change: Ditch bottled water, turn on the faucet

Published: September 19, 2008
Section: Opinions


Welcome to SEA’s weekly column, your one stop shop for info on environmental issues and how they are being addressed on the Brandeis campus. This week, we’ll be talking about the detrimental environmental impacts of bottled water and updating you on the bottled water situation at ‘Deis.

Our environment is harmed by each step of the bottled water process. When water is extracted from a source, either underground or surface water, the rigging introduces pollutants to the body of water and the extraction process disturbs the existing ecosystem.

If the source is an underground aquifer, extracting too much water from the same location at once could possibly collapse the aquifer and make it impossible for the aquifer to collect groundwater again. Once the water is mined, it is bottled in an electricity and petroleum intensive factory into plastic bottles, a petroleum product. From there, the heavy water is shipped across the country and the world, using all different kinds of fuel which, when burned, all emit tons of greenhouse gases, contributing to global climate change. The bottled water is then sold to the consumer.

When the bottle is empty, it has three paths. Best case and least common scenario, the bottle will be recycled. If not recycled, the bottle will be thrown away and end up in a landfill or worse, discarded on the side of the road.

In addition to the physical effects of the bottled water process on the environment, the social effects create a vicious cycle. Since bottled water is readily available and widely used, the public distrusts the quality and safety of the water provided by the municipal water system. They believe, if this other water is available, it must mean that tap water isn’t good enough.

This misconception leads to less political will for improvements and economic support for our municipal water systems. Without this political support, the quality of our free tap water will in fact decrease.

Fortunately, this has not yet occurred in Waltham; the water in Waltham is extremely clean. Supplied from the Quabbin Reservoir, Waltham water is kept as pristine as possible by the design of the water system and is also chemically treated to maintain extremely high standards, tested frequently by the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.

Now that you know how clean Waltham water is and how environmentally detrimental bottled water is, you want to know what Brandeis is doing about this issue. Over the summer, the University purchased an aluminum, carcinogen-free water bottle for every undergraduate student and they were distributed over the first two weeks of school. If you did not get your bottle yet, watch for information in your mailbox about where to pick it up.

Now that you have your bottle, where can you fill it up? Sink necks have been added to many water fountains around campus for easy filling. Believe it or not, you can also get the crystal clean Waltham water from bathroom sinks as easily as from water fountains. Yes, it is the same great water.

Currently, a committee of students, faculty and staff has convened to deliberate and decide on a plan of action to reduce Brandeis’s consumption of bottled water. However the committee decides to act on this issue, SEA wants to make sure that everyone understands how they can and why they should reduce, if not eliminate, their bottled water use. We’ll be sure to keep you posted on what the committee finds. Thanks for reading and we’ll see you around the water fountain!