Promoting Freshwater Conservation on World Water Day

This past Thursday, March 22nd, Sustainability Studies at RU students faculty marked the occasion of World Water Day — an annual event sponsored by the United Nations since 1992 to focus attention on the critical importance of freshwater and to advocate for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.

For several hours at RU’s Schaumburg Campus, SUST students Ellie Dimitrova and Amanda Zeigler ran an interactive table display featuring multimedia videos about urban sustainability and water ecology; a selection of books about water resources from Prof. Mike Bryson’s personal collection;

Lily Bryson, age 9 and 11/12ths. Future water scientist?

information about the Water in Schaumburg research project conducted by SUST 220 Water students this past fall; and best of all, a Bottled vs. Tap taste test, with able assistance from Prof. Bryson’s two young daughters, Lily (9) and Esmé (4). Our table set-up also featured posters created by Lily for a home-school science project on water conservation.

Our group interacted with dozens of faculty, students, and staff throughout the day, including RU President Chuck Middleton, Schaumburg Campus Provost Doug Knerr, and RU sustainability guru Paul Matthews (Assoc VP of Planning and Operations) — all of whom took the taste test, of course!

Esmé Bryson, age 4 and 5/6ths -- in front of WWD Taste Test posters designed by her sister, Lily

Those taste test results were most interesting. The students designed two different blind tasting protocols.

  • The first asked subjects to taste one cup of water and identify whether it was Schaumburg Campus tap water (from the hallway fountain) or Ice Mountain brand bottled water (purchased at the campus café).
  • The second had subjects taste two cups of water (one tap, the other bottled) and decide which “tasted better.”

In test #1, those who made correct guesses successfully identified tap water 11 times, and bottled water 4 times. Those who made incorrect guesses misidentified bottled water 4 times (meaning they incorrectly thought it was tap water).

In test #2, the results were even more fascinating: out of an admittedly small sample size of 39 people, a large majority of 28 (or 72%) preferred the taste of tap water, while only 11 (or 28%) chose bottled water.

SUST major Amanda Zeigler and her Jr. Assistant Esmé watch as another person takes the taste test

More importantly, the fun experience of having people take the test led into many informal discussions about the source of Schaumburg’s tap water (Lake Michigan) and the fundamental unsustainability of bottled water, which costs orders of magnitude more per unit volume than tap water.

For more pictures from the day, check out this online album.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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