New fountains bring green change to campus

As temperatures continue to climb this summer, new water fountains across campus will try to make staying hydrated more convenient and cost effective.

Twelve “water filling stations” have been installed across campus in 12 different areas, such as the Library and Business Administrative building.

Existing water fountains have been equipped with a sensor that automatically fills water bottles, as well as a green “ticker” that records the number of 16-ounce water bottles “saved from the landfill,” to raise student awareness, Director of the Office of Sustainability Christian Wells said.

Wells said there are plans to install more fountains on campus, as well as in on-campus housing. The Office of Sustainability will visit the machines – which have saved nearly 150,000 water bottles in their first month and a half, according to WFLA News Channel 8 – monthly to track their progress.

“Since it takes about 1,000 years for plastic water bottles to decompose, and nearly 90 percent of plastic bottles end up not being recycled, the long-term environmental consequences of buying bottled water are disastrous,” Wells said. “On average, Americans consume about 30 gallons of bottled water each year – that’s more than any other country on the planet. And this amount is especially egregious because we in the U.S. enjoy the least expensive and most consumable water in the world.”

Staying hydrated is especially important during the hot summer months, said Student Health Services (SHS) Medical Director Dr. Egilda Terenzi. June 15 saw the highest overnight temperatures in 121 years – 83 degrees, according to the St. Petersburg Times – and high temperatures increase students’ risk of dehydration.

Terenzi said students should tailor the amount of water they drink to their activity level and not how thirsty they are, as one can be well on their way to dehydration by the time thirst is perceived. Students should also consume non-alcoholic drinks, she said, as alcoholic beverages dehydrate the body.

“The general rule is to drink eight glasses (of water) a day – at least 64 ounces – for sedentary indoor activity,” she said in an email. “If engaging in very active sports outdoors, (students) need to drink 16 to 20 ounces of water or sports drinks two hours before, and then another 16 ounces in the 15 minutes prior to playing. They should then take frequent breaks – every 15 minutes or so – (to drink) another several ounces of fluids.”

Each dispenser cost about $1,000, Wells said, and was paid for by the Office of Sustainability. The Students In Free Enterprise organization has worked on the project for the last two years, he said, yet struggled to cover the costs of the fountains.

“We were pleased to be able to help (pay for the fountains) this past semester,” Wells said. “I hope, at the very least, that those who see and use the fountains will become more aware of the larger consequences of their decisions in buying bottled water. Universities are like small cities, so our collective global impact is enormous.”