USAC postpones bottled vs. tap water challenge


Every five minutes, the United States disposes of two million plastic beverage bottles.

Hoping to discourage bottled water use, the Sustainability Committee of the Undergraduate Students Association Council planned to hold its “Bottled vs. Tap Water Challenge” program today in Bruin Plaza, but it was canceled at the last minute because of unforeseen logistical complications.

The event, designed to test the taste difference between bottled and tap water, planned to have students drink a cup of each type of water without knowing the difference beforehand. The committee planned on keeping a tally of the type of water that is getting more favorable votes from students.

The event was canceled at the committee’s meeting yesterday afternoon, when members discovered that they had been unable to book Bruin Plaza.

“There were issues with our event coinciding with other events,” said Davina Simantob, program director. “We tried looking into other places, but we wanted to be in a place with high student traffic. We were ready for the event; we had the bottled water and tap water ready, and it was very disappointing.”

Though the event was cancelled, the committee hopes to postpone it to either later in winter quarter or sometime spring quarter, as it feels the issue is increasingly relevant to college students.

According to USAC general representative Thach Nguyen, students often choose bottled water because of the popular opinion that tap water is unclean and unhealthy.

“We know so many people in the residential halls, in the apartments, that think that tap water is so gross and tastes so bad,” Nguyen said. “There’s a stigma to it when research has shown that there’s no difference, when you keep certain conditions constant.”

Furthermore, some students’ infatuation with consumerism encourages them to buy water instead of drink it straight from the tap, Simantob said.

“People say that because you pay more for bottled water, it is better for you, but you’re just paying for the plastic bottle,” Simantob said. “People just need to get past that, and we will try to show people and have them taste for themselves.”

Although public opinion favors bottled water, tap water is actually better regulated than bottled water and is subject to stricter standards. While tap water is maintained by the cleaner standards of the Environmental Protection Agency, bottled water is not subject to much regulation by the Food and Drug Administration, said UCLA sustainability coordinator Nurit Katz.

“Tap water isn’t perfect, but it is very well-regulated, while bottled water is more risky,” Katz said. “Bottled water can just be public source water in bottles. For tap water, the EPA sets standards on what they consider safe for consumption.”

To some, there is a taste difference between bottled and tap water; however, the difference lies in the disinfectants present in tap water, Katz said. While both bottled and tap water include small amounts of microbes, arsenic and lead, tap water is treated with chlorine, which may give it a distinct taste. On the other hand, untreated bottled water often gives consumers the false image that the water they are drinking is safe, Simantob said.

“Bottled water industries don’t have to report the content or source of their water, but tap water companies do,” Simantob said. “Bottled water is more harmful, but no one knows it because they do not have to report it.”

By choosing tap water over bottled water, students will not only drink safer water but also save a lot of money in the process, Nguyen said.

“We hope that we can save students a lot of money and really help the environment by not using all those bottles of plastic which is not sustainable,” Nguyen said. “You buy a water filter or you just drink tap water, and it requires less effort, which would really push students to do it.”

Ultimately, the committee hopes to remind students of their roles as citizens in the global community, Katz said.

“People have a hard time conceptualizing the amount of plastic waste they throw out,” Katz said. “People think that if you throw something away, it goes away, but it doesn’t. It has a huge impact on the environment, and drinking tap water is just the responsible thing to do.”

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