Bottled water banned or restricted at more than 90 universities

More than 90 universities across the United States are banning or restricting bottled water sales, Bloomberg News reported Tuesday

Brown University used to sell about 320,000 bottles of water annually, but ended sales in dining halls in 2010, Bloomberg said. Universities instead are giving students stainless steel reusable bottles. Princeton University has a "Drink Local" campaign to discourage bottled water use. Harvard University and Dartmouth are installing more "hydration stations" around campus so that students drink from the tap instead. Cornell and Yale are also holding campaigns asking students to drink from the tap.

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The $22 billion bottled water industry is not pleased. “There are anti-bottled-water groups going from campus to campus," the president of the International Bottled Water Association told Bloomberg.

Bottled water has become unpopular with environmentalists for a number of reasons. The New York Times reported in 2009 that bottled water is subject to much less health regulations than tap water. Tap water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, while bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, which lacks the regulatory power of the EPA, the Times said.

In one study, the National Resources Defense Council tested more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands of water and found that one-third "contained significant contamination." 

In some cases, bottled water is taken from poor countries that are already suffering water shortages. Fiji Water, for example, is marketed as a high-end bottled water company in Western countries. But BBC News found that one-third of the population in Fiji doesn't have access to safe, clean drinking water. In one village the BBC visited, 20 people had been sickened by bad drinking water. 

And only one quarter of plastic water bottles are recycled, the BBC said.

“The product just doesn’t make common sense,” an environmental-studies major at Dartmouth told Bloomberg. “Companies are taking something that is freely accessible to everyone on the Dartmouth campus, packaging it in a non-reusable container and then selling it under the pretense that it is somehow better than tap water.”

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