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Just how thirsty is UFV?

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As someone who makes a point of staying hydrated, I’ve become very familiar with UFV’s water bottle filling stations. But it wasn’t until recently that I stopped to pay attention to what the little digital display above each one said. I’d read it before, but I’d never really registered the numbers listed in between the words “helped eliminate waste from” and “disposable plastic bottles.” But recently, I stopped to really consider that five digit number, and just how much water that was, and for just a single fountain. So I decided to do a bit of research to find out just how much UFV is drinking.

To be completely transparent, none of this is remotely scientific. In preparation for this article, I took a walk around campus on January 30, a Monday, at around 4:00 p.m. I noted down the total water bottle savings of five different stations, some in very high traffic areas, and others more out of the way. Then I repeated the route at the same time on February 20, another Monday. Note that this seems like a long period of time, but that includes both mid-term break and the week of snow-related closures before it. All in all, that works out to about seven weekdays with classes, though some individual classes were cancelled during the snow, and there were 10 days where UFV was open but had no classes. Like I said, this isn’t scientific.

The first station I checked was also probably one of the newer ones, which I guessed would make its total lower, but I assumed it would be gaining ground fast. That was the one in the Student Union Building, right around the corner from Fair Grounds. It went from 13,035 to 13,403 over the study period, an increase of 368 bottles of water. Not bad, I thought, but as the study continued I found that it was actually the smallest increase.

The second smallest increase indicated that perhaps being next to a coffee shop was bad for “business.” The station outside the Academic Success Centre, just down the hall from Tim Hortons, had an increase of 443, though its total ended at just past 55,000 — the most out of any station I checked.

The station I expected to have the smallest increase proved surprisingly popular. It was the most out-of-the-way one I could find, on the third floor of D building, away from the busiest classrooms and walkways. It still had served 15,230 bottles, and 527 over the course of those three weeks.

Unsurprisingly, the gym seems to have created a mighty thirst in a lot of its users. With 45,350 served, it dispensed 764 bottles worth of water during my study. Glad to see that our athletes are staying hydrated!

The most popular dispenser over the course of my three weeks of surveillance, however, came as no surprise. In the entrance to A building, just inside from the bus stop and near stairs and elevators leading to numerous classrooms, one humble water dispenser helped quench thirst by filling 764 bottles, giving it a grand total of 41,348.

Speaking anecdotally, I don’t see the dispensers in use too often, so I was glad to see that other members of the UFV community make use of them as much as I do. That’s 2,819 bottles filled over just seven school days, and that’s only tracking a fraction of the stations. In total, UFV has 17 of these stations — 14 at the Abbotsford campus, and three in Chilliwack. If the average from the five stations in my study, 563.8, applies across all 17, that means UFV filled roughly 9,585 bottles of water during that three-week period, not counting any that came out of other taps throughout the buildings.

I spoke to UFV sustainability assistant coordinate Travis Gingerich about my findings, and to get his take on the stations.

“I think the bottle stations have helped us meet our sustainability goals in a number of ways,” he said. “Obviously, we’re lessening our environmental impact by reducing the number of plastic water bottles being used on campus, plus we’re encouraging personal health and sustainability by making drinking water more accessible to all campus users. I use a bottle fill station at least once a day!”

Gingerich also expressed interest in putting together a more formal system to track the stations going forward with the help of student volunteers. Anyone interested in monitoring a station’s count on a weekly basis can reach out to him for more information at Travis.Gingerich@ufv.ca.

Stay hydrated, UFV!

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