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 naturally out of a recycling campaign which was intended to raise awareness of our recycling program and encourage community members to recycle. The analysis of the One Week’s Worth of Containers that showed that 40% of recycled containers were disposable water bottles led to our subsequent efforts to reduce the unnecessary and wasteful use of disposable water bottles, hence, the Back to Tap Water Campaign.
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 water bottles such as Dasani® and Poland Springs® bottled water. It was clear that there was an opportunity to make a meaningful change.
Blind Water Taste Test
To begin to understand the prevalence of bottled water usage, we looked at two things–taste and perceptions. One hundred sixty-eight members of the Deerfield Academy community participated in the blind water taste test set up in the Dining Hall during a Wednesday walkthrough lunch. Participants were given a score card to rank in order of preference four unlabeled pitchers of water. The only information given them was that there was both 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. Key results are highlighted below:
How often do you drink bottled water?
- Rarely to never: 34%
- At least once a day: 32%
- At least once a week: 54%
If you knew that Deerfield’s unfiltered tap water as safe to drink as bottled water, would you then drink tap water as opposed to bottled water?
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%
Following water quality testing of our tap water that confirmed it was of fine quality, ESAC forwarded its recommendations to the community.
Given the community’s taste preference for filtered tap water, the perception that bottled water is safer than tap, and the exceeding overuse of bottled water on campus, the Academy implemented ESAC’s recommendation that one sink per floor per dorm 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. Parents are reminded as part of the back-to-school announcements that the use of bottled water is actively discouraged on campus.