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Bottled Water vs. Tap Water: The Ultimate Showdown

By Sustainability Office on May 6, 2014

By Gillian Fisher ’16

Sara Reese '16 runs the water taste test in the Coop.

Sara Reese ’16 runs the water taste test in the Coop.

Last week, my fellow Green Raider interns and I conducted a water taste test in the Coop. At our table, we set up small cups filled with tap, filtered, and Poland Springs bottled water. Then, we had students come drink one cup of each, without knowing which type was in each cup, and rate them on a scale of 1 (best) to 3 (worst).

Overall, the event was a lot of fun and students were very enthusiastic to participate. In total, we got ratings from 60 students over the course of two days.  Going into the taste test, I expected bottled water to be rated the highest and tap water to be rated the lowest. However, the results were unexpectedly more environmentally-friendly!

Surprisingly enough, 33 out of 60 students said that the filtered water tasted the best. This filtered water was originally tap water, but was poured into a Brita water pitcher before being poured into the cups. It was no surprise to me that bottled water was a close second, with 22 out of 60 students rating it #1. Finally, almost everyone rated tap water as the worst.

These results indicate that bottled water is not as tasty and fresh as many people believe it to be! Brita water pitchers can be bought for around $20 and the replacement filters are pretty cheap as well. On the other hand, you would spend about $1,400 per year on bottled water if you drink eight glasses of water each day. If you drank that same amount of tap water, you would pay only $.49 for the whole year (http://www.banthebottle.net/bottled-water-facts/). In the long run, drinking tap or filtered water is a much cheaper and greener way to stay hydrated!

If everyone on campus used filtered or tap water, Colgate would be so much more environmentally friendly! Bottled water is terrible for the environment – the whole process unnecessarily uses huge amounts of energy, produces tons of waste, and depletes too much of the earth’s most precious resource: water. In fact, “Bottling and shipping water is the least efficient method of water delivery ever invented. The energy we waste using bottled water would be enough to power 190,000 homes” (“Not Disposable Anymore.” P.O.V.’s Borders. 2004. PBS). It is crazy how much bottled water can be seen on our own campus, especially when the majority of students prefer the taste of filtered tap water!

Recently, there has been a push among students for the installation of water fountains in the first-year and sophomore residence halls. I have heard many students say that they love the water from the filtered fountain at Trudy Fitness Center. If we could get these fountains in the dorms, so much plastic waste would be eliminated.

Any measures that can be taken to get bottled water off of the Colgate campus should be taken as soon as possible. This semester’s water taste test only gives more proof that bottled water is not the best option for students or for the planet. As 2019 – the year marking Colgate’s climate neutrality – approaches, we all need to keep this in mind and must continue pushing for a more sustainable future!


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