Bottled water sales continue to create stir around campus

Aimee Burch

The topic of bottled water lately has become the subject of debate across the ISU campus.

The Government of the Student Body recently passed a resolution by a 16-12 vote stating its support for the reduction of bottled water sold on campus. The discussion has been ongoing, but recently arrived at the forefront of students’ and administrators’ minds after a petition sponsored by the student organization ActivUs was presented to members of GSB and ISU Dining Services.

Recently, members of the Inter-Residence Hall Association have voiced their opposition to these plans. The IRHA passed a resolution by a 26-2 vote stating that after an overwhelming outpouring of negative responses from students and residents, they would not support a ban on the sale of bottled water.

“A vote like that does not happen much,” said Brendan Knepper, Friley Hall president and member of the IRHA Parliament. “Many students were caught off guard by the potential loss of sale. Within the residence halls, this is how they feel.”

Knepper and fellow IRHA member Nathan Davis said the IRHA worked with ISU Dining to ensure rates for students would stay low and they worked to get a zero percent increase in rates and expand services offered. Davis, also president of Eaton Hall, said the threat of banning bottled water sales on campus could mean price increases for students.

“Bottled water is the No. 1 seller for ISU Dining,” Knepper said. “Losing it would lower bargaining abilities. Without bottled water, the package ISU Dining buys changes, which increases the price of all other beverages and meal plans.”

This is something ISU Dining director of campus dining services Nancy Levandowski echoed, saying that the possibility of a rate increase may still remain for students should this become a reality.

“We can’t tell what the financial impact will be until bids are due around mid-June,” she said, referring to Iowa State’s five-year contract with current beverage vendors that expire this year. “We’ll get contract bids including water and without water and put students on a committee to make a decision.”

One of the goals of the ActivUs petition is that by getting rid of bottled water sales on campus, Iowa State will become greener, with less waste generated by students throwing away the plastic bottles. This is something Knepper, Davis and Levandowski say will not be resolved by banning bottled water sales.

“People will still buy bottled water at local stores,” Davis said.

Levandowski had a similar sentiment, saying that because students still will buy bottled water at stores such as Wal-Mart and Target, empty bottles will still find their way to campus.

The plan proposed by GSB calls for a gradual decrease in the sale of bottled water, to a point where it is significantly reduced.

“It’s probably not feasible to totally get rid of bottled water, but we could still reduce it,” said GSB senator Joey Norris.

Another concern Levandowski stated was the availability of places for reusable bottles to be refilled. At schools where such a ban was implemented, one of the concerns was whether or not there were enough water fountains on campus as well as whether or not it would be cost-effective to create refill-specific water stations.

These systems are already being discussed by GSB and university administration. Norris said there have been talks with facilities and maintenance to install and implement “spigots,” places designated for students and faculty to refill their reusable water bottles while on campus. Along with that, the university may need to assess and create more water fountains around campus, including in residence halls.

“Students may see a huge increase in those come fall,” Norris said. “With involvement and improvement, this can be a good thing. ISU could be a leader in the nation.”

Both sides of the issue cite student involvement as a major factor. Knepper said IRHA represents nearly 10,000 students residing in the residence halls and the voices of concern from students were a major factor in the decision to write a bill in response to the GSB proposal.

“The residence hall is a huge issue, and I want them to approach me,” Norris said. “I really want input from students. We were approached by students, got input and now we would like to hear from the opposition about why.”

Either way, this will not be an issue resolved in the immediate future.

“The university won’t make a snap decision,” Levandowski said. “There’s too much controversy for a decision to be made right now.”