By: Michael Timmermans


Mark Twain once said: “Whisky is for sipping. Water is for fighting.”

While 75 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered in water, only about one per cent is drinkable. There is a fight over that one per cent, including the bottled water for sale on campus.

Algonquin, it’s time to ban bottled water on our campuses and continue to provide easy access to clean tap water.

We have a solid sustainability reputation. At least a dozen campuses across Canada have already banned the sale of water bottles. Algonquin needs to put sustainability where its mouth is and follow suit.

Water is a basic human need and is required for our planet’s survival. As Mahatma Gandhi said, there is enough water on the earth for human need, not for human greed.

The sale of bottled water is a multi-billion dollar business. Water is treated as a commodity, making it vulnerable to market supply and demand. This begs a fundamental question: who owns our fresh water? This basic human need.

Here’s the reality: large corporations like Nestle, Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the three largest producers of bottled water, began aggressively marketing it to consumers in the ‘90s in an attempt to counter declining soft drink sales. It worked. Today, millions of bottles of water are consumed every day.

These producers need to secure water sources. Don’t let the mountains in the marketing fool you. If you’re drinking Dasani (Coke) or Aquafina (Pepsi), you’re drinking municipal water. Tap water sold back to you at 1,900 times the cost. In many cases it is “water-mined” for free or for pennies a litre.

Municipalities test drinking water supplies regularly under government regulation. In North America tap water is tested several times a day. The bottled water industry is largely self-regulated.

Then there is the negative impact on the environment. Only roughly a third of plastic bottles get recycled. Beaches around the world are littered with plastic washed ashore by the tides. Ocean ecosystems are cluttered with immense masses of discarded plastic. Bottles used once. Maritime environments have been turned into what Capt. Charles Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research Foundation, calls “plastic soup.”

Water bottles are made of a type of hard plastic containing carcinogenic agents. Over a billion litres of oil per year are used in the manufacturing of plastic. I could go on.

We are flagrantly wasting the world’s precious fresh water. Industrial practices like shale gas fracking, which uses millions of litres of water to flush out pockets of natural gas, are further depleting fresh water supplies. In the fracking process, water becomes contaminated with toxins and must be sequestered and buried, removing it from the aquifer forever.

So what can we do as Algonquin College students? Who owns our water?

We are all consumers; the “demand” in “supply and demand”. We can stop buying bottled water, choosing instead to drink tap water in reusable bottles. We can stop demanding so much from giant corporations. And we can insist that the institutions we attend and the activities we participate in are also reducing demand by discouraging water bottle use.

Ban the bottle, Algonquin.