Evanston tap water cart conserves 99K bottles in 2014

Kevin Mathew, Copy Chief

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In its first year, Evanston’s Mobile Water Station served 9,300 gallons of tap water while reducing disposable 12-ounce bottle use by 99,000.

The Mobile Water Station, a city-owned cart that provided clean tap water at 55 various events in 2014, will continue to operate this year and promote conservation education, said Kristin Rehg (McCormick ’03), the city utilities management analyst. The cart has facts about water conservation printed on it.

Although few improvements are needed, the station could benefit from more publicity and from people requesting it sooner if they need the station at their event, Rehg said.

“That was a good problem to have,” Rehg said. “It was much more popular than we even thought it would be.”

Throughout 2014, the Mobile Water Station rapidly become a staple at major Evanston events. The station could easily serve more than 1,000 gallons of ice water at major city events on hot days, Rehg said.

The station primarily promoted education while making conservation appealing, she said. Conservation is an easy task when the tap water is just as good, if not better, than bottled water, Rehg said.

The water is portable and potable; it is routinely tested to meet the standards of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, according to the utilities department website. The 200-gallon tank saves on transportation fuel by filling with local Lake Michigan water at the Evanston Water Treatment Plant.

“It really is convenient,” said Julie Cahillane, sustainability and resource manager at NU. “You make a couple phone calls, you pay $100 … considering the cost of bottled water that’s pretty insignificant. It shows up, you do nothing labor wise, they set it up.”

With advance notice and only $100, any organization can rent the station from Evanston’s utilities department. For individuals, Cahillane said the best way to conserve is to use a reusable water bottle.

Students groups, such as Associated Student Government, have used and promoted the water station. Christina Cilento,  ASG vice president of sustainability, said the station has been used for large events, including the Deering Days barbecue and the Residential Hall Association spring barbecue.

The Green Events Consulting Team, a group within the ASG Sustainability Committee, has helped promote the station to other student groups and events.

“For all of the events that we consult with, we suggest that the people get the reusable water station that Evanston provides,” Cilento, a Weinberg sophomore, said.

In April 2014, ASG passed a resolution supporting phasing out plastic water bottle sales at NU by April 2015. But change is gradual, and a reasonable alternative must be securely in place, Cahillane said.

Cilento said that while water bottle refill stations have been gradually installed across NU, the work is not finished.

“You don’t want to make anybody mad by saying no you can’t have any plastic bottles on campus and then there’s no reusable water stations,” she said.

Evanston bans plastic water bottle sales at city-sponsored events. Rehg said the Mobile Water Station acts as an alternative, and she has high hopes going into 2015.

“It’s just a matter of getting the word out there,” she said.

Email: kevinmathew2015@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @kevinwmathew