Ban the Sale of Water Bottles

In September 2012, Niagara College banned the sale of bottled water on campus. The initiative initially stemmed from staff recommendations at the 2012 Day of Reflection and was approved by the Executive Team in July. The Sustainability Committee supports this as banning bottled water has the obvious benefit of reducing waste from plastic bottles and supports the notion that everyone has the right – not the privilege – to clean drinking water, and it should not be sold as a commodity.  The staff members at Niagara College were honoured to have Maude Barlow as a key note speaker at the 2012 Day of Reflection.

As the National Chair of the Council of Canadians, Maude spoke to the global water crisis and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. During a brainstorming session following Maude’s address, Niagara College staff members were tasked with coming up with ideas how to make Niagara College more sustainable. The overwhelming response was to ban bottled water. Over the summer the Sustainability Committee explored options and concluded that banning the sale of bottled water on campus was something that needed to be done. In July it was approved by the Executive Team and the bottled water was off the shelves by September.

Bring Your Own Re-Usable Water Bottles (BYOrB)

Over the summer of 2012, Niagara College installed 11 hydration stations and 6 water spout attachments to existing water fountains at the Welland Campus and 8 water spout attachments to existing water fountains at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus. “If we are banning bottled water, it was important to provide an alternative for our staff and students.”, said Teresa Quinlin, VP Corporate Services, “Banning bottled water was a big step for us, but it is important to demonstrate we are serious about sustainability”.

The 2012 academic year featured a bottled water reduction campaign with the help of Volunteers to help educate our staff and students about bottled water and further information about why Niagara College decided to ban the sale of it on campus. The campaign featured blind taste tests, movie showings and information sessions.

Are we the only ones?

Think we’re the first public institution to ban the sale of bottled water? Think again! There are many municipalities, cities, school boards and higher education institutions that have already done it, including the city of Niagara Falls, City of St. Catharines, City of Thorold, and the City of Welland, Queens University, Flemming College and the University of Toronto. Click here for a list of other municipalities and institutions that have banned the sale of bottled water.

Water Quality

Think the bottled water you are drinking is superior in quality to our municipal drinking water? Would you be surprised to know that most bottled water is in fact municipally sourced? Most bottles will tell you where the water comes from; if it says municipally sourced, you are simply drinking tap water. Does your bottled water come from a naturally spring fed source? Would you be surprised to know bottled water is regulated as a food product under the Canadian Food Inspection Agency? According to the Polaris Institute, this means water bottling plants are inspected on average only once every three years.

Are you still not sure about the quality of our tap water? Well, Ontario has some of the most stringent drinking water regulations in the world. In 2002, the Safe Drinking Water Act was developed which requires rigorous compliance for all municipal drinking water systems.

You can also look at the water quality reports for Niagara. Each year every municipality must publish annual reports on the quality of the drinking water. The City of Welland information can be found on the City of Welland Drinking Water Quality Assurance Program website. The City of Niagara-on-the-Lake can be found on the Water & Wastewater section of the city’s website.