Hydration stations achieving sustainability across campus

By Cole Caviston
On April 25, 2014

  • There are about 58 hydration stations scattered in buildings around campus, all serving as a great source of sustainability for UNH. Amanda Cote/Staff

They may resemble the traditional water bubblers found in the hallways of high school, but the "hydration stations" across campus are helping serve as a source for achieving greater sustainability. 

Widely used by students and faculty alike, these stations have been found to be an effective way for students to fill bottles with filtered water and reuse their bottles instead of recycling or throwing them away, an effort that has helped reduce the need for purchased water on campus. 

The idea behind implementing the project did not originate in a single department, but was the combined effort made by several departments and university groups working together. 

"It was a very grassroots effort through many departments," said Jacqueline Cullen, a program support assistant for the Sustainability Institute. 

Nora Molloy, the Memorial Union Building assistant director, said that the idea behind the implementation was to cut down on the use of bottled water and provide other alternatives. But Molloy is quick to add that this decision did not require a change of habit for the university.

 "For conservation, the culture already existed on campus because people were used to bringing ... their water in coffee mugs," Molloy said. "The stations were just an extension of that culture." 

The campus-wide installation first began in late 2010 and continued into the next year. According to MUB Director MaryAnne Lustgraaf, the MUB, which now has seven stations, had their first station installed in 2009, two years before the rest of the building was converted.

"We put them in to have a filtered alternative and to accommodate the water bottles," Lustgraaf said. "Our first one went in two years before we installed them building wide."

The process included UNH Housing, the MUB and the Sustainability Institute, which included a number of affiliated organizations, such as the Ecosystem Task Force and the Student Environmental Action Coalition (SEAC), involved in the Sustainability Institute's biodiversity initiative. 

According to the Campus Journal in 2010, each station was estimated to cost about $3,000, which included the expenses of installation and equipment. 

Dwain Lozier, the contract manager for the Housing Department, says that the university has installed about 58 stations in resident halls and apartment complexes, in addition to libraries and the Hamel Recreation Center. 

"Every housing building has at least one," Lozier said. "We are constantly assessing where to add more and how many is enough."  

Housing installed the stations in the place of where the old water fountains once were. On the Sustainability Institute website, Lozier defined the old water bubbler system as "inefficient" and that the old system being replaced by the hydration stations was "the smart thing to do." 

Cullen described the system for the hydration stations as "decentralized," as there aren't any departments tasked solely with their management.  

"There's no one person that oversees the hydration station system," Cullen said. "If a group wants a hydration station in their building, they must fund it and schedule the installation through [Housing] Facilities themselves." 

While popular, the effectiveness of the hydration stations has been difficult to track. The Sustainability Institute does not have a total report of how many water bottles have been saved because of the stations.

"The counters on the hydration stations reset anytime a filter is changed or anytime there is a maintenance issue," Cullen said. "No one has been able to track all of the stations on campus to get a total savings number." 

There are currently no plans to increase the number hydration stations on campus. 

Word of the stations has spread widely across the collegiate system. In 2012, a regional conference for the Association of College Unions International brought outside spectators who were impressed with the hydration stations. 

"Many colleges had never seen them before," Molloy said. "After the conference, I received requests for specs and information on the stations from about six or seven colleges." 

Molloy believes that for those outside of the UNH community, the stations have a certain novelty attached to them. 

"People on campus are used to seeing them at this point," Molloy said, "but when we have admission tours or different conferences that bring in high schools or just people who are not a part of the regular community, you can hear them remarking 'oh, that's really cool.'" 

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