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What's in our water: bottled, tap, and reclaimed

Sunday, Jul. 1, 2012

Bottled Water
Have you ever wondered where the water in bottled water comes from? If it's a brand like Dasani or Aquafina, it comes from a tap.

Coca-Cola sources Dasani water from local water utilities and adds compounds to ensure consistent flavors across the nation. These brands take tap water and put it through several processes, which are energy and materials intensive. An Aquafina website visualizes the process used to treat municipal water for bottling. If these companies are spending time and money to put water through such a process, it must be better, right?

Photo courtesy of SCU Office of Sustainability

Plastic bottles can be unhealthy to drink out of. During transport, bottles are subject to heat and aging. This causes chemicals in the plastic to leach into the water within.

Bottled water is also expensive. Bottled water can cost as much as 2,000 times the price of tap water. With a price as high as $10 per gallon in many places, bottled water costs more than gasoline.

Another side effect of the single-use bottle trend is what happens to the bottle when it's empty. Over 80 percent of single-use bottles are sent to landfill or become litter. This means that over one billion dollars worth of plastic is thrown away every year.

But bottled water is convenient
SCU installed 30 goose-neck water bottle filling stations across campus, to improve convenience for filling reusable water bottles. Last summer, Santa Clara student Conner Mulrooney worked with Facilities to install gooesneck filling stations. Find SCU's water bottle filling stations on this interactive Google map.

Tap Water
Tap water here is safe and healthy to drink, since over half of Santa Clara’s water comes from fresh sources in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, including Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park, where the water is considered to be one of the highest quality drinking supplies in the country. Read more about where your water comes from.

Concerned about water quality? A variety of filtration systems allow consumers to filter water, whether in pitchers, refrigerator systems, or built-in systems for sinks. Read more about water filtration options and what to look for when buying a filter.

Recycled (aka Reclaimed) Water
Photo courtesy of SCU Office of Sustainability Santa Clara also uses recycled water on campus, transported in purple pipes. Recycled water is wastewater that has been tertiary-treated to be re-used. Over 40 percent of SCU's annual water consumption is recycled water, as it is used for over 85 percent of irrigation systems on campus, as well as toilet flushing in the Learning Commons and Locatelli Student Activities Center.  

So next time you are thirsty or watering a plant, think about where your water is coming from. Use a refillable water bottle to save your money, your health, and the environment. Tap water is safe, but if you are still wary of drinking water straight from the tap, filters are a cheap and effective solution. For more information on bottled water, watch this educational video brought to you by The Story of Stuff.

By Megan Anders, '14 Sustainability Intern -- Athletics and Recreation.

Tags: Buildings and Grounds, Campus Operations, Food, Program Highlights, Responsible Consumerism, Water



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