Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.
Illustration by Rachel Edelstein.

Day after day, students are reminded of how little money the University of California has. It stings a little when it is revealed that the UC has spent almost $2 million in the past few years on bottled water for the San Francisco and Berkeley campuses.

In light of recent cuts to student resources, this number is a slap in the face to those who have camped out in libraries and led chants in defense of their education. It brings up the question of whether Bay Area tap water is so intolerable that the population of these universities cannot be brought to drink it. This is not so, according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which claims that the region’s water is some of the purest in the world. So why has the UC deemed the purchase of these Arrowhead brand water jugs so essential? The New York Times asked this very question. A representative from UC San Francisco offered a couple half-hearted justifications, one of which he then invalidated upon further questioning. Thus, what we can determine here is that the UC has spent millions, for no apparent reason, on a commodity that is provided free of charge by the city.

To put this number into perspective, let’s look at UC Santa Cruz’s ballot Measure 42. If passed, the measure will require an additional $6.50 a quarter from each of UCSC’s 15,000 students, roughly $390,000 a year, which will fund an additional 400 library hours each quarter. According to numbers released by UCSF and UC Berkeley, the UC spends well over $400,000 each year in bottled water for the two campuses. In short, the UC has prioritized fresh bottled water over our access to our library, a resource we should not have to fight for.

And it isn’t just UC students who are paying the price for bottled water. Though most make a valiant effort, few people recycle their plastic bottles as often as they should. So the millions of tons of plastic used to package bottled water end up in landfills with piles of trash. Keep in mind also the millions of barrels of oil that are used to produce the bottles.

The decision to purchase such large amounts of bottled water is not economically responsible. When it comes down to it, the UC is flushing money down the drain, money that students fight for every day. They need to invest in a water filter, turn on the tap, and stop recklessly spending our money.