Westmont students and the reality of water insecurity

How can we stay hydrated?

When+you+feel+like+you%27re+parched+in+the+desert.+

Ella Jennings

When you feel like you’re parched in the desert.

Britta Roper, Staff Writer

“Mom, I think I’m experiencing water insecurity.”
Of course, I was a little dramatic. My mom was sure to remind me of that. Yet the complaint still lingered. Daily, I felt less hydrated than I should be and it felt difficult to do a simple task like refill a water bottle or a Brita filter. Several of the water fountains on campus are closed, most of my living and learning is outdoors, and the Dining Commons (DC) prohibits water refills. I simply keep forgetting to drink water.
Crazy enough, my experience is not unique. I expressed my complaint to my roommate, and she agreed. She shared my mom’s sentiment — I may be somewhat over dramatic — but the premise remained. She essentially agreed: Westmont College needs to make water and water fountains more easily accessible to students on campus.
So what does this problem look like in everyday life? First of all, due to COVID-19 protocol, water bottle refills in the DC are not allowed, so the only time students can enjoy filtered water from the DC is during one of their meals, if they are even on the meal plan.
Second, several of the water fountains in residence halls and academic buildings are closed. For example, the majority of Winter Hall’s water fountains are closed off by caution tape. The only water fountains on campus not closed are the automatic, touchless ones, but these stations are few and far between. Third, this problem of limited access is especially true for students in quarantine. Only two water bottles are provided per day in their meal packs.
How does this problem impact students and Westmont College’s campus? Primarily, it impacts the environment. Every day, plastic cups are filled with water and thrown away minutes later. The garbage cans overflow daily outside of the DC.
Not only is this tendency unsustainable, the problem also impacts students, especially those in quarantine. Two water bottles per day is minimal for a student in quarantine, and even worse for those in isolation. The average plastic water bottle holds about 16 ounces; this means students are provided only 32 ounces per day. Yet the most common recommendation for water consumption is two times this amount: 64 ounces.
Depending on your level of daily exercise or exposure to the sun — which is higher for students who attend outdoor classes — the daily recommendation for water consumption exponentially increases. In fact, the Institute of Medicine recommends that you drink anywhere from 74 to 101 ounces of water. This number would surely increase for a student who is positive for COVID-19 and in isolation, because sickness increases a person’s need for hydration. These conditions are not good for students on campus, not good for students in quarantine, and are a borderline massive health concern for students in isolation.
What, then, can Westmont do to address this problem? Let’s start by opening water fountains again and encouraging the use of reusable water bottles. Then, replace old water fountains with new automatic, touchless water fountains and install them in more locations around campus. Automatic and touchless water fountains would eliminate potential risk of exposure to COVID-19 or other common illnesses as well as provide more access for students across campus. Finally, set up a system to provide more water to students in quarantine or isolation. Supplement the meal packs with gallon-sized water containers, or deliver more than once a day. The college must find practical ways to provide students with what they need.

Having steady access to water should be the last of Westmont students’ concerns. ”

I may not be experiencing water insecurity in the truest sense of the term. Yet having steady access to water should be the last of Westmont students’ concerns. As a student body and as a college, let’s take some practical steps to ensure access to water.

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Opinions expressed in letters and other editorials, unless otherwise stated, are those of the writers and not of The Horizon staff or the college collectively.

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