Back to Tap Water

The Back to Tap Water campaign was a joint effort by ESAC, the Environmental Proctors, and the Environmental Club. It grew out of a recycling campaign, the analysis of the “One Week’s Worth of Containers” showed that 40% of recycled containers were disposable water bottles. This led to efforts to reduce the unnecessary and wasteful use of disposable water bottles.

One Week’s Worth of Containers

During one week in November 2009, Deerfield set up large bins in front of the Dining Hall to display all the metal, glass, and plastic containers we captured for recycling during one week. At the end of the week, students from the Environmental Studies classes helped to count and categorize these containers. The result showed that 80% of the containers recycled were plastic and that 40% of the containers were disposable bottled waters.

Blind Water Taste Test

One hundred sixty-eight members of the Deerfield Academy community participated in the blind water taste test. Participants were given a scorecard to rank in order of preference four unlabeled pitchers of water. The only information given them was that there was bottled and tap water among the four. The clear winner was filtered tap water from the Dining Hall. Last in preference was unfiltered tap water, which is the water available in the dorms and water fountains around campus.

Drinking Water Survey

To explore what barriers might prevent Deerfield community members from using our tap water, two student members of ESAC compiled a list of questions to survey community members. Two hundred twenty-one people responded to the questions.

If you knew that Deerfield’s unfiltered tap water was as safe to drink as bottled water, would you then drink tap water as opposed to bottled water?
  • No: 33%
  • Yes: 67%
If faucets with filtered water were present in all dormitories, would you be more likely to give up bottled water in favor of refilling a reusable bottle?
  • Yes: 71%
  • No: 9%
  • Not in Dorm: 20%


The Academy implemented ESAC’s recommendation that one sink per floor in the dorms be outfitted with an under-the-sink filtration system to improve the taste by removing chlorine. The Academy also followed ESAC’s recommendation and installed Hydration Stations (as opposed to water fountains) at key locations around campus.

The Dining Services outlets on campus ceased all sales of bottled water. The use of bottled water is actively discouraged on campus.


In March 2013 the Environmental Proctors performed a follow-up blind water taste test. The results confirmed student preference for filtered tap water over bottled water. Since Fall 2013 bottled water has not been provided to students on athletic and other school-sponsored trips. Other considerations include reducing bottled water use at school events such as commencement, alumni weekend, and 2nd visit days.