UT-Austin encourages students to use reusable water bottles and fill them up on campus rather than buy plastic water bottles. Unfortunately, a majority of campus water fountains are not ideal for this task. Tilting a water bottle 90 degrees to fill it up, only to have it 75 percent full can be disappointing. Not to mention it’s unsanitary and wastes water. In 2016, Moody College of Communication approved installing Elkay water bottle filling systems which make this task easier. Other schools need to follow suit and provide similar water stations.
“I really love the water bottle stations because if I forget to fill up my bottle at home, I can just fill it up in Moody,” said journalism freshman Lauren Castro. “I wish they were in every building because I have to leave Moody sometimes. Having water easily accessible is so nice.”
The fight for Elkay systems has been tackled from many sides. For Communication Council, installing the Elkay stations required persistence. Ryan Dempsey, a former Communication Council president, held multiple meetings in 2016 with Jay Bernhardt, the Moody College of Communication dean, and other UT administration.
According to Bailey Sward, the Communication Council president, they had to remind Dean Bernhardt that installing the water stations was beneficial to Moody and something that students wanted.
Once the process was in motion, Dean Bernhardt, Communication Council and the UT facilities and maintenance pinpointed high traffic locations that could handle water and electricity. The project lasted a whole semester. Despite the long process, Dean Bernhardt “encourage(s) other colleges and schools to consider such installations if their facilities and resources would allow it.”
Installing Elkay stations throughout campus would require each college to individually vote on the addition. However, The UT Student Government can also further the initiative. In 2013, the UT Student Government and Staff Council introduced water bottle stations. They originally installed 13 stations around campus which cost $1,437. The UT Green Fee Committee funded the project.
In addition, Student Government President Colton Becker led an initiative regarding the water bottle fillers in 2016. He partnered with University Health Services and the Graduate Student Assembly to compose a grant proposal to the Green Fund. In 2017, the Green Fund allotted $12,597 to “the installation of water bottle filling stations at Welch Hall, PCL Library, Flawn Academic Center and the CBA building of McCombs.”
Becker noted that since then the biggest challenge has been logistics. Both Welch Hall and PCL have yet to receive their stations because of renovations or an inability to be retrofitted. These problems are echoed in other colleges as well.
The Elkay stations are quick, clean and green. They are a simple, sustainable option that all colleges should implement. The results speak for themselves. On each water bottle filler, there is a number representing how much disposable waste from plastic water bottles has been avoided. When someone uses the Elkay, the number increases. “That’s how I know that it has made a positive difference for our people,” Dean Bernhardt said. Elkay is the future of sustainable technology, and UT's colleges should be the pioneers of this change.
Wyatt is a journalism freshman from Atlanta, Georgia.