NEW YORK -- Bottled water is coming under attack on college
More than 90 schools, among them Brown and Harvard universities,
are banning the sale or restricting the use of plastic water
bottles, unnerving the $22 billion retail packaged-water industry in
the United States.
Freshmen at colleges nationwide are being greeted with stainless-
steel bottles in their welcome packs and encouraged to use hydration
stations where free, filtered water is available. Brown, which once
sold about 320,000 bottles of water a year in vending machines and
campus stores, ended sales in dining halls in 2010. Harvard and
Dartmouth College are installing hydration stations in new buildings
to reduce trash.
"The product just doesn't make common sense," said Sarah
Alexander, 20, an environmental-studies major at Hanover, N.H.-
based Dartmouth. "Companies are taking something that is freely
accessible to everyone on the Dartmouth campus, packaging it in a
non-reusable container and then selling it under the pretense that
it is somehow better than tap water."
In response to the growing movement, the water industry released
a video on YouTube last month poking fun at "Ban the Bottle," an
organization that advocates banning one-time-use plastic water
bottles. The spot, which features "Star Wars"-like music and
flashbacks of antiwar demonstrations, says bottled water is a safe,
convenient product that is "one of the healthiest drinks on the
shelf" and that its packaging is recyclable.
There "are really serious issues over here, and now you're
dealing with bottled water?" Joe Doss, president of the
International Bottled Water Association, based in Alexandria, Va.,
said. While "there are anti-bottled-water groups going from campus
to campus," Mr. Doss said he doesn't consider it "a big threat" at
More than 9 billion gallons of bottled water were sold
domestically last year, and the industry is growing 5.4 percent a
year, according to Gary Hemphill, senior vice president of the
Beverage Marketing Corp., a New York City consulting firm. Sales to
colleges and universities aren't tracked separately.
The bottling industry may be worried about losing brand loyalty
from college kids, said Eric Meliton, an industry analyst with Frost
"If they lose that access, yeah, you would see a big drop-off on
that demographic," Mr. Meliton said. College students are "on the
go, they've got backpacks and they may not choose to use bottled