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Under the Bottled Waterfall

There’s no denying that bottled water has impacts that extend far beyond the steep price premium of 200-3000 times the cost of municipal tap water. Bottled water contributes to climate change (Bow River Keepers estimates the production and transportation of a one kilogram bottle of Fiji water consumes 0.849 kilograms (one litre) of fossil fuel and emits 562 grams (1.2 pounds) of greenhouse gases), excessive water consumption (that same litre of Fiji water also consumes 26.88 kilograms  (7.1 gallons) of water), and bursting landfills (in some communities the percentage of bottled water ending up in landfills can be as high as 80 percent).

But what do all those numbers actually look like?

To illustrate the impacts and waste associated with bottled water, members of the University of Alberta Council of Canadians teamed up with Greenpeace on Campus and Edmonton-based visual artist Dianne Connors to create a “bottled waterfall” in the heart of the U of A campus to mark World Water Week 2011 in Edmonton.

Constructed of 1000 500 mL empty water bottles strung together into a waterfall formation, the installation represents the amount of bottled water consumed in approximately 7 seconds in Canada, or two hours worth of consumption on the campus.

“The University of Alberta and the Students’ Union continue to sign beverage exclusivity contracts with Coca-Cola on our campus, requiring the continuous sale of bottled water,” commented Logan McIntosh, one of the activists who worked on the installation.

“We believe that the discontinuation of partnerships with unjust and environmentally destructive corporations will allow our institution and its members to make positive contributions to a sustainable and just future,” added Louise Veillard, another of the activists involved in the waterfall.

In addition to the waterfall, which was surrounded by signs with facts about the impact of bottled water, chapter activists handed out information sheets on bottled water, “I drink tap water” buttons, and also hosted an information table which included a blind taste test comparing bottled water and municipal tap water.

The installation was created as part of Edmonton Water Week 2011, which continues though Saturday.

(In case you’re curious, no new bottled water was consumed in the creation of the bottled waterfall! The bottles were borrowed from a local bottle depot and will be returned for recycling at the end of the week).