Don’t call it a water fountain. In many buildings across campus the spots where students can grab a quick drink have been transformed into water refill stations.
The refill stations, which are in the Michigan Union and Angell Hall among other locations, were created in an attempt to curb the campus community’s use of single-usage water bottles and the effect this has on the environment and are part of a larger campus sustainability effort. Planet Blue, a University program that works to make the campus more environmentally friendly, is the organization behind the water refill stations.
Andrew Berki, manager of the University’s Office of Campus Sustainability, said the water refill stations have been very successful since they were installed earlier this fall.
“We’ve had terrific response from the community on these systems,” Berki said. “We’ve gotten lots of inquiries from students wanting to put more of these on campus.
Berki said the stations, which allow users to set their water bottles under a spout and not have to tilt the bottle to refill, makes using a re-usable bottle less of a hassle for students.
“They like having the ability to fill up their containers and not have to attempt to fill it up at a water fountain,” Berki said. “It also tastes a little cleaner to them.”
The water, which comes from Ann Arbor, used in the refilling stations is municipal water that is tested 5,000 times annually by the city, according to a plaque next to the refill station in Angell Hall.
The plaque lists some numbers detailing the effects that using bottled water has on the environment. Bottling water produces levels of carbon dioxide similar to the energy usage of 193,000 single-family homes, according to the sign. This amount of energy consumption is also equal to carbon dioxide emissions from 433,000 cars.
The plaque also notes the economic repercussions of single-use water bottles. The production of single-use water bottles for domestic consumption in one year is equivalent to the energy of 17 million barrels of oil, the sign states.
The refill stations are part of a larger University goal to make campus greener, Berki said. In conjunction with the University’s Graham Institute, the Office of Campus Sustainability has been working on an initiative called Integrated Assessment.
“It’s a project to set long-term sustainability goals for the campus,” Berki said.
The program consists of professors and graduate students who work in seven teams, each with a different area of focus — buildings, transportation, purchasing and recycling, land and water, energy, culture and food
John Callewaert, director of the Integrated Assessment program, emphasized that the program is making significant strides when it comes to student involvement.
According to Callewaert, there have been “over 160 applications from students interested in participating in the program.”
LSA senior Elise McGowan said she much prefers the new water refill station in Angell Hall than the regular water fountains.
“It’s fun, it’s fast, you can walk by, fill it up, and go,” McGowan said. “There should be more of them.”
McGowan said she enjoys seeing the number of bottles being saved every time she uses the refill station. McGowan added that she finds the stations easier to use than typical water fountains.
“You don’t need to worry about tilting your bottle and only getting it half full,” she said.
The Office of Campus Sustainability has plans to install more refill stations around campus, Berki said, specifically in places where buildings tend to be more reliant on bottled water.