A new campus rule will have Western Washington University students scrambling to stores to purchase canteens and Camelbacks.
Beginning this fall, Western is banning the sale of all disposable water bottles from campus markets and vending machines.
Western will officially begin phasing out bottled water as soon as possible, said Carolyn Bowie, co-president of Students for Sustainable Water.
The ban of all disposable water bottles could be enforced as soon as this fall. However, a date is not definitively set for the water bottle ban because of challenges Western may face, such as getting water removed from campus vending machines, she said.
The cold beverage contract helps support several groups on campus, Bowie said.
In 2012, bottled water sales made up about 11 percent of the revenue from the cold beverage contract, which included all bottled beverages sold on campus, she said.
Bottled water is only a small percentage of the revenue source for the college, and banning water bottles saves individuals and departments money, said Regional Student Organizer for Think Outside the Bottle, Rebecca Nuebardt.
“Because bottled water is literally a thousand times more expensive than tap water, it just makes sense to purchase a reusable water bottle,” Bowie said.
Even though she has a reusable bottle, Western student Reema Patel said she does not think it is a good idea to ban disposable water bottles, because she has forgotten to bring her reusable bottle to campus in the past.
To compensate for the absence of disposable water bottles, a new hydration station will be installed in Wilson Library this fall. As new buildings are remodeled and built, more water refill stations will hopefully be installed, Bowie said in an email.
Western currently has three water-bottle refill stations, which are located in Old Main, Arntzen Hall and the Wade King Student Recreational Center, Eckroth said.
The Western bookstore carries a growing supply of reusable water bottles, the General Manager of the Western Bookstore, Peg Godwin, said.
While water bottles will be banned from vending machines, other beverages such as soda will remain, Bowie said.
“What sets water totally aside in [another] league apart from soft drinks is that we have water flowing from our taps," she said. "It is a shared community resource that should be kept that way.”
Bowie said for tap water to remain public shared water, municipal water supplies need to be funded and supported. The privatization of water takes away from municipal supplies, she said.
“Going water-bottle free is great for the environment, of course, and also sends a really powerful message that water is not a commodity, and that it’s something everyone should have access to,” Nuebardt said.
A human health aspect exists for bottled water also, Bowie said. Bottled water is virtually unregulated, being that one person at the Food and Drug Administration regulates all of the water, she said.
Tap water is highly regulated and tested several times a day whereas bottled water is not, Nuebardt said.
“All in all, it is going to be so much for the greater good. This initiative is going to make so much positive change, [and] Western is sending out a really strong positive message about our value for tap water,” Bowie said.
Editor's note: This article originally contained information from Robby Eckroth, the ASVP for student life, regarding the loss of revenue from bottled water sales. That information was found to be incorrect and has been removed from the story.