Tap Water vs. Bottled Water: Which Would You Choose?

By Danielle Propst ’14

When you think of tap water, often only one word comes to
mind: “disgusting.”

Many people on the William Woods University campus, as well
as in the Fulton community, share the belief that Fulton water is not healthy
and has a bad taste.
 
Dr. Joe Kyger, assistant professor of chemistry, along with
his general chemistry class, went out into the community in hopes of
discovering the truth.
 
The idea originated when Kyger realized the student body, as
well as the faculty and staff, had a notion that Fulton water was not safe to
drink. He once shared that belief. 
 
Kyger was looking for a challenging and significant
experience for his general chemistry students that met all the requirements for
a valid project-based learning activity. 
 
“The activity must be student-driven, it must mirror
traditional learning goals for the course, and critically, the students must
buy into the project.  The instructor
becomes the facilitator; the class gets the job done.”
 
As part of a project-based learning activity, students went
out into the community to find out where this notion came from. Project-based
learning draws on the traditional coursework but introduces a hands-on
experience.
 
Class members surveyed students and community members about
why they don’t drink Fulton water. The majority of those surveyed said they did
not like the taste, with health concerns being their next reason.
 
Armed with this information, the students ventured to the
library to do research on the history of mining in Fulton. One of the possibilities
they considered was mine runoff causing heavy metal contamination in the water.
 
They also researched the Internet for water quality data,
regulations for tap and bottled water and Fulton’s water quality compared to
that of Jefferson City and St. Louis.
 
“We have a right as informed citizens to analyze our water
quality,” Kyger said.
 
What the students found through their research came as a
surprise. The quality of Fulton water was as good as Jefferson City or St.
Louis water. They concluded that Fulton water was not only healthy, but better
to drink than bottled water.
 
The next part of their project centered on the argument of
whether to drink tap or bottled water. The students overwhelmingly sided with
tap water for several reasons.
 
First, it is better for the environment. There are 1,500
plastic water bottles consumed in one second in the United States, which
averages out to 50 billion bottles per year. Of these, 80 percent end up in the
landfill despite recycling programs. They cannot decompose for thousands of
years.
 
The second point the students made was that bottled water
isn’t always as safe as tap water. In a four-year study conducted by the Natural
Resources Defense Council,
the NRDC found that roughly 22 percent
of the water tested in water bottles contained contaminant levels that exceeded
state health limits.
 
Unlike tap water, bottled water is not required to be
regularly tested. This means that contaminants could enter the water without
the public’s knowledge. Plastic toxins, for example, have been linked to
reproductive issues and cancer.
 
Even if a contaminant was found, bottled water legally does
not have to be recalled, and the public doesn’t have to be informed.
 
Finally, it is cheaper to drink tap water versus bottled
water. Bottled water costs 1,000 times more than tap water. Drinking two liters
of tap water a day only costs 50 cents per year.
 
To wrap up their project, the students hosted an event on
campus to inform the WWU community of their findings.  A poll taken at the end showed that a
majority of the audience was genuinely surprised and convinced to start
drinking tap water.
 
This was the first time Kyger had used project-based learning
and he was pleased with the result. He also found the experience as a whole to
be extremely rewarding.
 
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve had at William
Woods.”
                                                        
 

CUTLINES:

Some
people do not like the taste of tap water, but the WWU students’ research
indicated it is safe to drink.
 
Unlike tap
water, bottled water is not required to be regularly tested.

Sami Berry, Amy Gangloff, Lacee Floyd, Rebekah Roe, Dr. Joe
Kyger, Lauren Clawson, Dyllan Harper, Megan Cooper and Olivia Neely discuss
their study of the safety of Fulton’s drinking water.

 

Miranda McKee, Samantha Berry, Joe Kyger, Olivia Neely and
Eilie Cole speak to Fulton Rotary about their water research.

 
Dr. Joe Kyger, assistant professor of chemistry, discusses
his