Students and staff at Albert Lacombe School are trying to kick the habit of buying bottled water and use reusable containers instead.
Earlier this month the school kicked off a new initiative that encourages the use of reusable water bottles instead of buying bottled water. School principal Julian DiCastri said the issue is about protecting people in developing countries like Ecuador and Indonesia.
In Indonesia, large bottled water companies control many of the country’s natural springs and often deny access to water to small-scale farmers.
“There was a time in some of these countries like Indonesia and Ecuador where water was abundant and now because they’re damming it up and trying to sell it and maximize the consuming of it and quantifying it, that now the locals are deprived,” said DiCastri, who became attuned to issues related to water privatization thanks to an article in the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace’s newsletter.
DiCastri said the issue is relevant in Canada where plastic water bottles are filling up landfills, something kids at Albert Lacombe can really relate to.
From a Catholic school perspective, he said the initiative also reflects their faith.
“Jesus was all about justice and getting fairness. Regardless of whether you buy into the faith or not, he stood for radical, preferential treatment for the poor, that was his mandate.”
When students returned after the Christmas break, they were asked to sign a pledge supporting publicly owned and operated water systems by choosing tap water over bottled water whenever possible.
The pledge also includes a commitment to create bottled water-free zones in students’ homes and to support efforts to have bottled water replaced by tap water in all municipal, provincial and federal public spaces.
“We’re not saying don’t use water bottles, we’re saying take a reusable water bottle and fill it up and that way you’re contributing to our environment and you’re also, in the greater scheme, looking out for things globally,” said DiCastri.
“You’re not asking them to change the world in one fell swoop but in a very small way they can make a meaningful contribution.”
According to Maude Barlow, national chair of the Council of Canadians, private sector interests knew long before the public that the world was running out of water and that whoever controlled the word’s fresh water resources would be very powerful.
“We have so lost our touch with water and we have to much to learn from people in the developing world about respect for water,” Barlow said in a recent interview with The Water Front.
She called bottled water a form a “water theft” and said the unregulated industry is growing by about 20 per cent each year.
“We’re just at the cusp of a massive change in our view of water from being something that belonged to us all that was a common part of global heritage to something that will be commodified,” Barlow said.
DiCastri said water privatization makes no sense.
“When you swoop in there as a company, drill in and then start charging the locals for water, it just seems criminal.”
DiCastri said staff at Albert Lacombe will no longer purchase bottled water for the cooler in their office and will instead rely on reusable water.