Students Further Demand for Bottled Water Free Campus

Friday, October 25, 2013

  • Geography Professor Ben Bradshaw speaks to students at rally.

    Geography Professor Ben Bradshaw speaks to students at rally.

Written by Peter Miller

In March 2012, 78 per cent of students that participated in a referendum voted in favour of ending the sale of bottled water on campus. Despite the strong support for this demand, university administration has refused to respect the call to end the sale of private water.

With this in mind, students and community members at the university rallied last Tuesday demanding administration and hospitality services end the sale of bottled water on campus. The rally at Branion Plaza saw a peak turnout of around 60 people.

Students became concerned in 2007 when they were informed that Nestle Water had an application to continue their water permit that allows the company to draw water from the same underground source as the city.

Zoë Barrett-Wood, who spoke at the rally and was a student at the time, was one of the concerned students. “We looked at what we could do to fight this on campus and aimed to get bottled water off campus,” she said.

  1. Guelph students that started the campaign for a bottled water free campus in 2007 inspired similar campaigns at universities across Canada.   The Canadian Federation of Students has supported similar campaigns on campuses across the country.

As a result of student activism there are 25 campuses across Canada that have committed to eliminated the sale of bottled water. But the University of Guelph that had students at the forefront of the campaign for bottled water free campuses still has not capitulated to demands of students.

The university administration wants students to have the freedom to choose to buy bottled water on campus. But according to Dominica Mcpherson the Central Student Association’s External Affairs Commissioner, when it comes to bottled water, “freedom of choice is very much an illusion.”

The Central Student Association’s press release added, “ As long as tap water access is adequate the choice of water will always be available on campus. Ending the sale of bottled water on campus would not limit choice to water, but rather demonstrate the University of Guelph’s commitment to environmental sustainability through reducing the use of single use plastic bottles on campus.”

“We are literally putting a private value on something that people need to live,” Mcpherson added.

Patrick, from the Wellington Water Watchers also spoke at the rally. For Patrick, “[Bottled water] benefits only those who bottle and sell it, while extracting it causes a great amount of harm to the environment.”

Nestle extracts 1.6 million liters of water a day from the same groundwater that Guelph draws from in Aberfoyle. Every day, the lifetime use of water for the average Guelph resident is drawn.

Patrick emphasized that while private water companies are able to sell water for profit, 80 per cent of First Nation communities have access to water that is deemed to be unsafe, when access to clean drinking water should be a human right.

People at the rally were happy with the turnout for a very cold day on campus.  The protesters all know that students can have power on campus from their numbers and unity. “You have the power to dig a foundation, in this case a more figurative one; a foundation for less corporate control on campus,” said Barrett-Wood.

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