Cooler Than Tap Water: A Study of Water Coolers and Tap Water on Dalhousie University Campus
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Despite having consistent access to clean drinking water, nearly 100 water coolers exist on Dalhousie campus, as indicated by an audit performed by the Office of Sustainability (personal communications, February 2011). It is assumed that an underlying distrust for tap water is fuelling (or at least contributing to) these purchases. However, there has been very little research that has focused on the quality of water from water coolers, and it is often simply assumed to be a healthier and safer choice. Our project aims to investigate whether or not water cooler water is actually cleaner, healthier, or safer than tap water, by comparing its quality to that of tap water on Dalhousie campus. Our study took water samples from ten coolers across campus and tested them for alkalinity, as well as bacterial and metal content. The samples were compared to the standards set by the Guidelines for Canadian Drinking Water Quality. Our research revealed that both sources adhered to these guidelines, and were of comparable quality. Aside from the money being spent on water coolers for water of comparable quality to that of tap, there are also many environmental issues associated with water coolers, such as emissions and energy consumption associated with extraction, transportation, distribution, and storage. We hope that our findings will encourage a trust in tap water and a move away from the use of water coolers and bottled water of all kinds.