Dalhousie’s Water Pledge Reviewed; A look at Perceptions and Actions Taken
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The privatization of water as a commodity is an issue that has touched the world in recent years. Single-use plastic water bottles are contributors to ongoing environmental and social stressors by causing plastic pollution and fueling ongoing fears of water insecurity (Olsen, 1999). The impact that selling water as a commodity has had has driven post-secondary institutions, as well as governments to change their drinking water practices, moving away from single-use plastic water bottles when possible (Chung,2010 ; Jaffee & Case, 2018). At Dalhousie University a Drinking Water Pledge was signed in 2013 with the goal of creating more choice when it comes to obtaining drinking water, as well as decreasing overall drinking water use on campus when possible (Dalhousie, 2013). This study looks deeper into the perceptions of the community surrounding the pledge and the actions being taken six years after implementation. The hopes are that these perceptions will aid administration in updating the pledgeaccordingly, incorporating the wants and needs of the current Dalhousie community. Data was gathered using surveys as well as audits of both the water fountains and vendors to gather information on both perceptions surrounding drinking water habits as well as data on actions being taken. It was found that many individuals are using water fountains in the Killam library, where the study took place, and few individuals were found purchasing water from vendors. This matched the survey data where many participants stated their regular use of water fountains. The perceptions of the Dalhousie community, specifically on Studley campus, supported a culture transitioning away from single-use plastic water bottles. When asked about specific sections of the pledge, participants often were unaware of the step that was pledged be being taken (i.e. reusable water bottles in vending machines) or found that the university was falling short in meeting the pledge (i.e. offering tap water, and maintenance). From here, the data was analyzed and results were used to make recommendations for the future of the drinking water pledge. To conclude, thus far the Dalhousie drinking water pledge has helped in an initial reduction of single-use plastic water bottles on campus, but there is still room for improvement. To continue transitioning the community towards a drinking culture with little emphasis on single-use plastic water bottles steps must be taken to address the accessibility and maintenance of campuses drinking water infrastructure. It is recommended that this be done by creating an updated pledge, paying special attention to these areas. As the Dalhousie community supports a transition to a single-use plastic water bottle free campus, it is recommended that the future pledge addresses this as a future goal, and research the logistics behind this transition.