According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), adults in the United States drink on average 39 ounces of water each day. It has also been reported that water plays an integral role in preserving our health , energy and mental health .
Although water is vital to our existence, the quality of that water is just as important. In fact, many people’s lives have been impacted as a result of consuming contaminated water. It is important that members of the UT community are confident that the water they drink on campus is clean and properly filtered.
The University should work with its current drinking water fountain suppliers and install filter status indicators on all on-campus fountains.
Kandi Ortega, a sustainability studies and sociology senior, explained the importance of ensuring students are drinking clean water.
“It would be nice to know the water was clean especially with how often we have the boil notices,” Ortega said.
The City of Austin has issued three boil water notices in the past four years. While there is no apparent evidence that the University’s drinking water is unsafe, more assurance seems necessary given separate citywide concerns in the past.
Ortega further explained that they believe the University has a responsibility to inform people on campus of the filter status of the water coming from on-campus drinking fountains.
“They should be accountable,” Ortega said. “If people are asking or even if we’re not asking, it’s the information that should be available.”
Given that UT is home to a huge campus with drinking fountains in all on-campus buildings, everyone deserves to have equal assurance that the water they’re consuming is properly filtered.
Veronica Trevino, media manager for Financial and Administrative Services at UT, explained in an email the University’s precautions taken to ensure on-campus drinking water is safe to consume.
“University facilities staff replace water fountain filters in campus buildings every year as recommended by the manufacturer,” Trevino said. “Determining which water fountains on campus would need to be updated with filter status monitors and installing them would involve collaborative decision making across several university units and involve several considerations, including those around cost, facility/building manager coordination, maintenance and staffing resources.”
It’s comforting that UT is compliant with its water fountain manufacturers. However, the University should invest in updated equipment that displays filtration status. It would potentially be more expensive for the University if some of their current drinking water fountain providers didn’t offer filter status indicators. However, this isn’t the case.
For instance, Elkay, a large manufacturer of drinking fountains and one of UT’s water fountain providers, has products capable of displaying filtration status. While some of UT’s drinking fountains already have the filter indicator feature, others do not. The current system leads to some being adequately informed regarding the water they drink and others questioning if the water they’re drinking is safe.
All students, faculty, staff and visitors at the University should be able to verify whether the water they’re about to drink is filtered or not. Specifically, if a drinking fountain’s filter (without an indicator light) were malfunctioning and not properly filtering water, consumers could suffer painful and unnecessary consequences such as nausea or intestinal cramping. However, in the same scenario, if the consumer saw a red light on the filter status, they would immediately know not to drink the water.
Investing in student peace of mind, comfort and safety means investing in water fountains with filter status indicators. The University should do its part by continuing to keep drinking water clean while allowing members of the Forty Acres to be informed consumers.
Lazenby is an economics junior from Chicago, Illinois.
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