How a student turned her high school into a bottled water free zone

On Monday evening, Nanaimo City Council narrowly passed the Blue Community designation. The key motion was to “phase out” the sale of bottled water in municipal buildings. Councillors Anderson, McKay, Greves and Mayor Ruttan voted against.

Here is what the next generation is doing:

McNally High School in Edmonton is now a bottled water free campus, thanks to the efforts of one student, Claire Edwards.

Why did she do it?

A year ago, Claire attended a youth conference on issues of water sustainability. She learned:

  • it takes an average of 3 litres of water to create 1 litre of bottled water
  • 17 million barrels of oil is used annually to create these plastic bottles (enough for a million vehicles)
  • 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide were emitted in the production of these plastic bottles

How did she do it?

Enlisting the help of another student, Claire approached the school’s administration with the idea of installing a drinking water fountain and providing reusable water bottles for the 1,100 students who attend the high school. The cost of both was estimated at $6,400.  The next step was to convince the students of the long-term benefits of the initiative.

“Most of this water comes from municipal sources so companies get water out of taps and then sell it back to the consumer for 3,000 times what they got it for, while hurting the environment.”

The bottled water industry under its various umbrella organizations including the International Bottled Water Foundation and International Council of Bottled Waters Associations, are continuing an agressive global campaign. Global sales have gone from 175 million litres in 2005 to 237 million litres in 2010.

Some substances may prove more difficult to manage in bottled than tap water. This is generally because bottled water is stored for longer periods and at higher temperatures than water distributed in piped distribution systems. Control of materials used in containers and closures for bottled waters is, therefore, of special concern. In addition, some micro-organisms, which are normally of little or no public health significance, may grow to higher levels in bottled waters.


Grip Magazine, Spring 2012; 2011 Global Bottled Water Congress, Zenith International;