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Did you know that tap water at Hampshire College, which comes from the Amherst municipal water supply, is held to stricter standards than bottled water?
Students enrolled in an environmental course taught by chemistry professor Dula Amarasiriwardena during fall semester conducted tests that showed Hampshire's tap water exceeds all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
Sales of bottled water ceased on campus in fall 2012, following a movement by students to educate the campus community about its environmental and economic costs.
"We want people to have water, but we also want them to know that tap water is not only cheaper, it's regulated by the EPA," said Sustainability Initiative Director Beth Hooker.
During summer 2012, Associate Professor of Hydrology Christina Cianfrani took water samples at eight locations across campus. A few months later, students in Amarasiriwardena's course tested water at all five of Hampshire's newly installed "hydration stations," which chill and filter tap water and provide faucets that make filling large bottles easier.
The findings from both studies, said Hooker, show that Hampshire's tap water exceeds all U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
Signs reporting detailed test results have been posted at all the hydration stations.
In spring 2012, environmental action group New Leaf launched the effort to ban the sale of bottled water on campus. The students, working with Associate Dean of Students for Campus Leadership and Activities Pam Tinto, wrote a proposal to purchase the hydration stations. They were awarded an $11,000 grant for that purpose by the Committee on Community Development (COCD), a subcommittee of student government.
Tinto, who primarily worked with New Leaf student leader Emily Keppler, noted that there are plans to install more stations this summer using that funding, and that they will seek additional funds to install even more after that money has been used.
"It's an ongoing project. We'll install them as we can budget them," said Tinto. "Students seem to love them. It's changing people's perspectives on tap water, and encouraging them to drink it instead of seeing bottled water as the healthiest option. And the fewer plastic water bottles we have, the more we reduce our carbon footprint."