First Bottled Water Free University for Australia

WaterVend Machines photo

Photo Credit: Jon Dee

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Canberra announced on Friday 21 January that its campus will discontinue the sale of bottled water by World Water Day (22 March 201). The initiative started by students, assisted by environment action group Do Something! and supported by University administration and campus businesses is thought to make Canberra Uni the first Australian university to eradicate single use bottled water.

Representative of the UC Environment and Sustainability Society, Greg Stewart, who initiated the move as part of a team based course project, said he was delighted to see the idea become a reality. "We'd hoped to start with a bottled water free day, but the University was really supportive of our idea and now we can make a real difference as a campus."It has been calculated that the university currently consumes about 143,000 bottles of commercially produced water. Canberra Uni will be implementing several strategies to provide students and staff with continued access to clean drinking water:

1. New water bubblers and bottle refill stations will be installed with funding from the Australian Capital Territory's Chief Minister's Department. These are similar to those installed in Bundanoon, the village that in 2009 became Australia's (and the world's) First Bottled Water Free Town.

Vending Machines
2. The university will also have Australia's first installation of WaterVend machines dispense filtered, 'flash-chilled' still, sparkling or flavoured tap water into the customer's own refillable container. Jon Dee of the Do Something! action group says, "Instead of paying $2.50 to $3 for bottled water, the students will only have to pay $1 for a chilled water refill. With sparkling water, instead of paying $3.50, they will only have to pay $1.50."

(As an ironic aside, the American distributor of these British made WaterVend machines is a subsidiary of a company that makes water bottling plants. Nothing like having a bet each way.)

Reusable Bottles
3. Both premium refillable Sigg water bottles and low-cost refillable bottles will be sold on campus for use with the above refll station and vending machines.

The Uni's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Parker, said he was "proud the University of Canberra is taking the lead in the higher education sector by discontinuing the sale of bottled water. Tap water has a significantly lower environmental impact than bottled water." Professor Parker noted that, "Only 43 percent of plastic bottles are recycled. We have plentiful supplies of fresh, healthy, free drinking water on campus, there is no need for our students or staff to buy bottled water and contribute to the environmental damage it causes."

Do Something founder Jon Dee, (who also helped Bundanoon's 2,500 residents and the 1,100 high schools students of Monte Santʼ Angelo Mercy College drop bottled water), sees the initiative as an beachhead campaign for other Australian tertiary education facilities: "If the 13,000 students and staff at the University of Canberra can do this, there's no reason why every other university in Australia cannot do the same," he said. "It will save students money. The water's better for their health and it will make a really big environmental difference."

And other Australian universities should also take note of those universities, in the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States who've had the foresight and gumption to rid their campuses of bottle water.

University of Canberra (media release) and Do Something! / Go Tap
More Anti Bottled Water Campaigns
An Australian School Ditches Bottled Water, While Another Becomes World's First Carbon Neutral School
Town Prepares to Celebrate Going Bottled Water Free
Community Votes To Become Australia's First Bottled Water Free Town
Venice, Italy, Rebrands Tap Water As Aqua Veritas to Fight Bottled Water Waste
Tears of a Cloud: Bottled Water Video Spoof
Save $1,400 a Year By Drinking Tap Water
Bottled Water Scourge Countered by Manly Council's Free Filtered Water

Related Content on