In 2010, the University of Ottawa became the first campus in Ontario to ban the sale of bottled water on its campus. This decision was born out of a partnership between the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa and Food Services. The choice was simple once all the benefits were weighed against the disadvantages.
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Access to water

Bottled water can be cost prohibitive. Removing bottled water and increasing access to water fountains represents significant savings for students across a variety of locations.
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Environmental footprint

Banning bottled water reduces the total number of disposable bottles. Increasing water fountains on campus encourages the campus community members to bring their own reusable water bottle.
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Clean water

Bottled water subtly undermines the use of public utilities. The City of Ottawa has some of the cleanest water in all Canada. Therefore it is counterproductive to sell a product on campus which is already available for free.

Environmental impacts

Aside from the purchasing of plastic, there are other numerous environmental impacts stemming from the use of disposable bottles, including:

  • CO2 emissions associated with the fuel used to transport bottled waters to the campus
  • Electricity consumed to refrigerate the vending machines selling bottled water
  • Energy required to recycle the disposable of plastic bottles

Factors involved in the physical accessibility of water fountains

A pivotal part of being a bottled water free campus is the constant revitalization of the drinking fountains on campus. The Facilities and Sustainability teams, as the stewards of the water infrastructure network on campus, undertake the task of surveying all the water fountains on campus every year, repairing those in bad condition and installing new ones where appropriate. Improving the accessibility of water, both physically and financially, is paramount to changing habits. There are currently 210 drinking fountains on campus.

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Presence of a spout that can be used to fill reusable bottles and is more convenient.
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Rating the taste of the water from fountains is based on the following scale: good, average, poor.
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Meets the requirements of the Standards for Barrier-free Design Ontario (fountains and goosenecks).

of fountains on campus have a gooseneck to fill bottles, a 1% increase from the previous year.


of fountains on campus have a “good” taste, a decrease of 1% from the previous year.


of fountains on campus are accessible, an increase of 3% from the previous year.

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Rating of the water pressure of the fountains is based on the following scale: high, medium, or low.
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Rating the temperature of the water in fountains is based on the following scale: cold, average, warm.
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Fountains are monitored for their cleanliness, the degree to which they are clean and free of rust and debris.

of fountains on campus have “high” or “medium” pressure, a 2% increase from the previous year.


of fountains on campus dispense “cold” water, a 4% decrease from the previous year.


of fountains are considered “clean” or “acceptable”, a 3% decrease from the previous year.


This year’s survey was conducted by a trained employee. Every indoor and outdoor water fountain was surveyed at the University of Ottawa. Fountains located in restricted areas and construction zones were not surveyed and listed as “unknown”. The information was collected for the following criteria: taste, accessibility, gooseneck, cleanliness, temperature, and pressure. The data collected was analyzed and compared to previous years.

The total number of fountains on campus has grown by 46% since the University began to transition to a bottled water free campus.

Water filling stations

There are a number of new water filling stations on campus that record the number of disposable plastic bottles avoided. Next year’s report will start recording this number to help track the popularity of the fountains.

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Future plans

The University of Ottawa will continue to improve the water fountain network and look for new opportunities to place more fountains around the campus. With the introduction of new programs, such as the H2Ottawa project, we are prioritizing social programing and awareness raising. This coming year, a renewed focus will be placed on educating event planners about the University of Ottawa’s bottled water-free status.