In 2009, the University of Winnipeg eliminated the sale of bottled water on campus. Following the same steps, the University of Manitoba Students’ Union (UMSU) is also pushing for a bottled water free campus.
Moving toward this goal, UMSU recently met with Ancillary Services and Physical Plant, and together they have decided to replace six of the current water fountains in University Centre with ones that are of better quality and easier to use.
Camilla Tapp, UMSU president, said that the university cannot go bottled water free until it has sufficient infrastructure. She noted that three of the new water fountains will be on the first floor, two on the second floor and one on the third floor of University Centre.
“It’s also an accessibility issue; not all of the existing water fountains are accessible to students living with disabilities,” she said.
Three of the six new water fountains, two on the first floor and one on the second floor, will be two-tiered and can accommodate students with the wheel chairs.
“The new water fountains will make our campus more accessible,” said Tapp.
When asked about the benefits of a bottled water free campus, Tapp said that it takes much more energy to produce bottled water than tap water.
“We need to make sure that we understand water is a resource for this country and it should not be commodified and sold,” said Tapp.
Murray Elfenbaum, administrative coordinator for Ancillary Services, said that based on current timelines, new water fountains will be installed by January 2012.
“We just found that the current fountains were not that accessible. We also want to encourage the use of reusable water bottles,” Elfenbaum said.
He added that one of the features in the new fountains is a meter that will count the amount of water bottles that are filled up.
“We can actually do statistics to see how much water is used,” he said.
He added that this is the one step towards encouraging people to use refillable bottles.
“Winnipeg has some of the highest quality water without being filtered. I think that people don’t need to have filters because [our tap] water as it is quite good,” said Elfenbaum.
Bryan Douglas, UMSU representative for students living with disabilities, believes the installation of new water fountains is something that is of great importance to the students he represents.
“It is great that administration has taken this initiative and recognized students with disabilities,” said Douglas.
Douglas said members of the community were concerned students were not able to access the fountains.
“It will make it easier for students with wheelchairs to fill up their water bottles,” said Douglas. “That will be greatly helpful for any kind of further understanding in moving forward and trying to get more water fountains on campus.”
Douglas gave credit to administration and Ancillary Services.
“They have been very helpful; hopefully we will keep the good working relationships on other projects,” he said.