Water, Water Everywhere and not a Drop Without Political Debate

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I thought if the day came when Coun. Darren Hill became the beacon of light on council, that would be the day I hung up my spurs.  

I’ll put that thought on hold and wait to see if his illumination was caused by a one-time power surge.

On the debate about possibly banning the sale of bottled water sold at civic facilities, Hill said: “I think that our citizens are smart people” and “they know the impact of single-use bottled water and they can make their decisions on their own. We don’t need to do that for them.” Thank you, councillor, for the respectful comment about the people you serve.  

The only time I buy bottled water is when I am visiting a country where the water quality is iffy and barely potable even with a purification kit. In my opinion, Saskatoon has good water, so why buy the bottle when the taps are free (or should I say pre-paid?)

About one-third of the bottled beverages sold at city facilities are water. If this is all about our beloved landfill, there are disposal containers for those used bottles (and tin cans), and we should assume those containers will go to the recycling depot, not the landfill. But if council was going to consider banning the healthiest beverage being sold, why not ban all bottled beverages? While they are at it, they could ban Styrofoam cups some facilities still use for hot beverages.

Most people participating in an athletic or exercise activity come with their pre-filled reusable water bottles to hydrate themselves throughout the activity. 

It’s the spectators who tend to belly up to the snack bar, often parents who come to watch their kids play a sport with other children in tow who will beg for a beverage during the game. Better the little munchkins should get a bottle of water than a sugar-filled soda. With the onslaught of juvenile obesity and diabetes, parents should always encourage the water alternative.   

Years back, drinking fountains were commonplace in public spaces. They were slowly phased out because of health and contamination concerns.  

We have all seen kids and adults wrap their mouths around a fountain or spigot that is barely trickling out water, and today there are serious life-threatening diseases and viruses being transmitted through bodily fluids. Furthermore, there was and continues to be a concern about the quality of water offered in fountains because of old lead plumbing and lack of proper maintenance.  

But the world of drinking fountains has greatly improved from the original vertical prototypes that bubbled water out of the spout and spread contaminants. Improved models and higher water pressure that can project water at least four inches from the spout means people will lean into the water flow without placing their mouths near the spout. New water dispensers, such as those at the University of Saskatchewan, are specifically designed to fill reusable containers.   

According to experts, the key to good public water fountains is the monitoring and maintenance of the dispensers. Monitoring would include establishing protocols for daily cleaning and disinfecting of the fountain, flushing to remove sediments and stagnant water and using filters.  

It would include replacing either parts of or all of a fountain as the need arises. It means ensuring that the water pipes are modern and free of lead, copper and sources of microbial contamination (and I assume that most of our public facilities have good up-to-date plumbing.) It also means regular testing of the water to ensure its quality. 

It also might mean changing our thinking about raising our kids in a sterile environment.  

God knows how many of us survived an era where you could pull a carrot from a garden, wipe the dirt off on your jeans and then eat it. Let’s not forget about drinking from the garden hose before flushing all the stagnant water out.  

Today’s kids live in a bubble, slathered with hand sanitizers and anti-bacterial wipes, keeping them in a germ-free world where human touch is shielded by nitrile disposable gloves. That’s not to say sanitation and cleanliness aren’t important, but that kids and dirt go together like peas and carrots, and reasonable exposure to their surroundings might just improve immunity in the long term.  

Of all the money this city has wasted on trivialities, putting $450,000-plus into maintenance costs for expanding the public’s access to safe drinking water seems like a good investment.

If fountains are untenable, increasing the number of spigots for refilling reusable water containers should be a viable option. In creating an alternative rather than banning bottled water, council might find that the sale of bottled drinking products will decline, and the single-use plastic bottle problem will be solved through lack of market demand.

As respect is a two-way street, I respectfully submit these comments to the powers that be.