U Installs Water Refill Stations, Supports Use of Reusable Water Bottles

Dana Budzaj, Public Affairs
Release Date: 

Beginning this fall, students, faculty and staff can refill their reusable water bottles on campus at more than 100 drinking fountains equipped with a refill device. Additionally, all incoming first-year students will be given a reusable water bottle.

Through collaboration among the Office of Campus Sustainability, Central Student Government, Construction Services and other units, 42 refill stations and 74 bottle refill attachments have been installed on campus. The installations occurred in areas with high pedestrian traffic including residence halls, libraries, University Unions and various academic buildings on central and north campuses. See campus sustainabiltiy Map for locations.

"Student input was a great influence on the decision to enhance campus infrastructure to support the use of reusable water bottles, and decrease campus waste generated by using disposable bottles,” said Andy Berki, manager of the Office of Campus Sustainability.

According to the Earth Policy Institute, more than 30 billon disposable water bottles are discarded each year in the United States, with the average American being responsible for 166 bottles per year.

The new refill stations look similar to traditional water fountains with the additional feature of a built-in sensor in the backsplash. When a bottle is placed in front of the sensor it prompts the station to disperse water from directly above the bottle. The bottle refill attachment is a gooseneck spout on the fountain that allows users to refill bottles in the upright position.

In 2010, Plant Operations installed two water refill stations in Mason Hall, which tallied a combined total of more than 270,000 uses in one year, and generated a buzz around the need for additional refill locations.

“It was important for CSG to help provide the university with new water refill stations to assist in creating an environmentally sustainable campus,” said Omar Haswhi, vice president of the Central Student Government. “We plan to do our share and decrease the number of plastic water bottles discarded.”

CSG provided the funds to purchase 18 of the refill stations while individual units covered the costs for installation in their areas. Students also helped guide the university’s decision on where to install the refill stations through a survey conducted by the LSA Student Government.

In addition to the increased infrastructure to support the use of reusable water bottles on campus, this fall the university implemented the Planet Blue Water Bottle Initiative. The three-year program supplies all first-year undergraduates with a reusable water bottle when they arrive on campus.

“A significant amount of energy is used in the production and transportation of disposable water bottles. Reducing demand will reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with that energy use,” added Berki.

As part of the initiative, the incoming student class was surveyed on their current water bottle behavior. The survey results will provide the university with a benchmark for tracking and measuring student behavioral changes while on campus toward the use of disposable water bottles.

Several campus units and student organizations, including Graham Sustainability Institute, Planet Blue Ambassadors, University Housing and Students for Sustainability, sponsor the initiative.

Additional Info:
Units interested in a water refill station or bottle-filling device are encouraged to review requirements for installations and recommended equipment. Full guidelines available here: http://www.ocs.umich.edu/pdf/H2O_Refill_Station_Guideline.pdf

Planet Blue reusable water bottles are available for purchase for $5 through Recreational Sports.