UBC Undergraduate Research

Assessment of drinking water at UBC : a consideration of water quality, energy and economic costs, with practical recommendations Tran, Allina; Li, Beatrice; McNicholl, Darcy; Noble, Josh; Van Dijk, Katherine; Lee, Nicole


Students, faculty, and staff at the UBC Vancouver campus currently have three choices for drinking water; tap water from drinking fountains, bottled water sold at food service locations and vending machines, and water filtered by various additional filtration systems. These three drinking water systems each have different environmental, economic, and health implications. People have begun to question the necessity of the bottled water industry due to increasing awareness of its environmental costs. However, UBC students, staff and faculty may still choose bottled water over tap water if they have concerns or misconceptions over tap water quality. In response to concerns over the environmental impacts of bottled water and tap water quality, the UBC Alma Mater Society (AMS) has invested in the installation of water filtration units known as WaterFillz stations. There have been previous student papers written to compare the environmental, economic and social implications of these three drinking water choices; bottled water, tap water, and WaterFillz filtered water. While these papers have provided a good overview of the general impacts of the three drinking water options, our project aims to further develop the analysis by exploring questions in a more systematic and quantitative way. Research Objectives Environmental Implications 1a) Estimate and compare embodied energy costs of the bottled water, tap water, and WaterFillz systems and identify system components which contribute the most. 1b) Qualitatively discuss other environmental implications such as waste generation and recycling. Water Quality Assessment 2) Determine whether heavy metal contamination of campus tap water merits cause for concern. Economic Considerations 3a) Quantify the economic implications of the potential removal of bottled water from UBC campus. 3b) Compare the economic costs of three different water filtration systems; Elkay, Brita, WaterFillz. Recommendations for the placement of WaterFillz stations 7 4) Make recommendations for where to install additional WaterFillz units on campus, based on conclusions of the water quality assessment combined with survey responses and building traffic data.

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