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UI mulls water filtration on campus

BY KRISTEN EAST | SEPTEMBER 01, 2011 7:20 AM

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Unfiltered water will soon be a thing of the past at the University of Iowa.

Over the summer, officials installed new water filtration equipment in some dorm buildings, including Burge, Currier, Daum, and Hillcrest.

UI Student Government leaders and officials from the Office of Sustainability will meet next week to discuss plans to install additional equipment that would give students the option of having filtered or unfiltered water.

Two different filtration systems will be considered at the meeting, UISG Sustainability Initiatives Director Kelsey Zlevor said. One of those options, the Elkay EZH2O bottle fillers, allows students to fill their own containers with filtered water.

The UI sophomore said one Elkay bottle filler runs from $2,100 to $2,700, plus installation costs.

“It is significantly expensive, so that’s why we need to have a lot of discussion over it,” she said.

The Elkay bottle fillers are expensive because they feature motion-sensor technology as well as a digital counter tallying the number of 20-ounce disposable plastic bottles not producing waste. The Elkay fountain in the Currier lounge has helped eliminate waste from more than 1,700 disposable plastic bottles.

Some Currier residents are employing the new technology.

“I literally walk out of my way to go to those water fountains and fill up my water bottles,” said UI sophomore Ariel Pierson. “They are easy to use, and the water tastes better.”

Steve Smith, an Elkay representative in Illinois, said a large incentive for having the Elkay bottle fillers at universities is to prevent excess plastic waste.

“Basically, you’re going to save plastics from going to landfills,” he said. “A lot of [universities] are going to [filters] just for the going-green initiative.”

The second option, a cheaper that the Elkay, is a retro fitting, which entails attaching a gooseneck-shaped device to the faucet of common water fountains, allowing students to decide for themselves if they want filtered or unfiltered water with the simple flip of a switch. The cost for this device, though largely cheaper than Elkay, has not been determined.

“[Retro fitting] would be easier and a lot cheaper,” Zlevor said.

Although retro fitting seems to be the way the group is headed, it is looking to install at least a few more Elkay bottle fillers, Zlevor said.

Dorms, major academic buildings, including the Pappajohn Business Building, and buildings on the Pentacrest are targeted areas for new fountains. The number of fountains installed depends upon equipment and installation cost. It is likely that both filtration systems will make a greater appearance on campus this school year, Zlevor said.

She noted that either filtration system would ultimately divert a lot of plastic from the recycling system and educate students on how much waste plastic bottles produce.

“Even though [plastic bottles] end up in recycling, that’s still waste whether it’s recyclable or not,” she said. “[Either device] would benefit us because students as individuals would be more conscious of how much waste they use.”


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