Initiative Asking to End Bottled Water Sales Placed on Ballot

Photo: Plastic water bottles are the target of an initiative put on this year's ballot that asks the campus to end bottled water sales, to be voted on during the ASUC election April 5, 6 and 7.
Christopher McDermut/Senior Staff
Plastic water bottles are the target of an initiative put on this year's ballot that asks the campus to end bottled water sales, to be voted on during the ASUC election April 5, 6 and 7.

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An initiative to request the end of all bottled water sales on the UC Berkeley campus will be on the ASUC ballot this April, after a bill was passed at last week's ASUC Senate meeting.

The initiative - part of an ongoing effort to reduce waste on campus and encourage students to use refillable canteens rather than plastic water bottles - will be voted on during the April 5, 6 and 7 ASUC elections.

Co-authored by Cooperative Movement Senator Elliot Goldstein and Rose Whitson - director of the ASUC Sustainability Team, which has led the initiative to get rid of plastic water bottles on campus since last semester - the bill supporting a referendum to "End the Sale of Bottled Water Initiative" was passed Wednesday night.

The referendum requests the renegotiation of existing campus contracts to end the sale of bottled water as well as increased efforts to provide other water options to students through better maintenance of water fountains and more hydration stations. If passed, though, the initiative would have no binding power on the campus.

The bill was passed after the referendum was amended from saying it would encourage the campus to "exclude" the sale and purchase of bottled water to saying it would urge the campus to gradually "phase out" water bottles.

Initially, Whitson tried to get the initiative on the ballot through the petition process. Although at first Whitson thought 1,000 signatures were needed, as the bylaws on the ASUC website had indicated at that time, she found out in January that in fact she needed around 3,500 signatures. The bylaws had not been updated properly and therefore she had seen the incorrect figure.

When it became clear that Whitson and the Bottled Water Coalition would not likely be able to reach the number of needed signatures, Goldstein decided to co-author the bill with Whitson.

Whitson said that although the bill got the majority of senate votes, she was "frustrated by the lack of support for the proposition."

ASUC Auxiliary Director Nadesan Permaul said in an e-mail that the referendum is misleading because it does not provide all of the information.

"It does not indicate that funding that supports the ASUC and ultimately underwrites student activities and programs would be affected by the elimination of bottled water sales on the campus," Permaul said in the e-mail.

Kim LaPean, communications manager for University Health Services, said although she hopes to see further reduction of plastic water bottle use on campus, there are not currently enough water refill stations on campus.

The question, according to LaPean, is "do we have enough places on campus for 50,000 people to get tap water everywhere they need to get it?" She said efforts have been made to increase the amount of water available on campus, but UC Berkeley currently lacks the infrastructure to do so.

Yishi Zuo, chair of the ASUC Store Operations Board, said if the initiative passes, it will not likely have immediate effects.

"Understanding Berkeley's bureaucracy, it will be hard to get all of Berkeley's campus to end the sale of bottled water," Zuo said.

In May 2009, the board forgave The Daily Californian a portion of its rent for the office it leases. As part of the agreement, a nonpolitical student member of the board, currently Zuo, sits on The Daily Californian's Board of Operations, which has no control over the paper's editorial content.


Contact Katie Bender at [email protected]

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