UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact, February 2015

Fall in Love (With SF Tap Water):  Four Reasons to Drink Tap Water

BottleThis Valentine's Day, fall in love with SF tap water. Being located in San Francisco, UCSF’s tap water comes from pristine snowmelt in the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite National Park. Unlike bottled water, San Francisco tap tastes better, costs less, is high quality, and is better for the environment. Read on to learn more about the four reasons to ditch bottled water and fall in love with SF tap water. Keep your eye out for the new water bottle filling stations (more to come soon).

Reason #1: It Tastes Better

Now there is a new reason to think outside of the bottle. According to San Francisco food critics, San Francisco’s tap water tastes better than bottled water. In a recent taste test conducted by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, (SFPUC), Arrowhead bottled water was identified by four of the five tasters as inferior. Tara Duggan, a San Francisco Chronicle food writer, described the Arrowhead water as “flat.”

Reason #2: SF Water is High Quality

Hetch HetchyTyrone Jue, Director of Communications at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) stressed, "While consumers might think bottled water is safer, in fact, San Francisco's tap water is some of the best in the world". Compared to bottled water, SF tap water is tested more often and held to a higher standard than bottled water. Eighty five percent of SF tap water comes directly from Sierra snowmelt, which is tested 100,000 times per year. According to June Weintraub, Sc.D., Acting Manager of Air, Water, Noise, Radiation and Smoking Programs at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, "The SFPUC provides some of the best and healthiest municipal drinking water in the nation. The water comes from protected watersheds and is extensively monitored to ensure that it meets or exceeds all health protective standards set by federal and state law. Neither chloramine nor fluoride pose a health risk in our drinking water."

Reason #3: Better for Your Pocketbook

Switching to tap water is better for your pocketbook. Jue stressed, "Bottled water costs 500 times as much as using tap water.” Gail Lee, UCSF Sustainability Manager added, “Think about it. Bottled water costs more than gasoline or milk per gallon. By making the switch to tap, both at home and at the office, the savings will add up.”

Reason #4: Better for the Environment

The environmental benefits of avoiding bottled water are many. Because 85 percent of San Francisco’s tap water is delivered by gravity from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, fed by Sierra snowmelt, its carbon footprint is much smaller compared to the energy required to produce and transport bottled water. According to Jue, bottled water uses 2,000 more energy to produce than tap water. It also leaves a wake of waste behind. In California alone, one billion plastic water bottles end up in landfills each year, where they take 1,000 years to biodegrade.

Easy Access at UCSF

UCSF has installed three Global Tap water bottle refilling stations to provide everyone with free access to high-quality Hetch Hetchy tap water while on the go. Global Tap bottle fillers are located at:

• Millberry Union
• Mission Bay Gene Friend Way
• Aldea Community Center

In addition, four bottle filling stations have been created at the following water fountains:

• MSB 1st floor between the two lobby restrooms
• MSB/HSIR 3rd floor near restrooms
• SON 2nd floor corridor
• Between the two restrooms before you enter into the MU Fitness Center

The Office of Sustainability plans to launch a new campaign to encourage UCSF faculty, staff, and students to drink tap water. Stay tuned for more details on how you can easily and cheaply transform a sink or drinking fountain into a tap station for refilling bottles. The tap stations will enable you to reuse your own container rather than depend on bottled water.

Learn More

Food and Water Watch

Story by Green Impact, helping organizations make a greener impact through communications and marketing.
Images: SF Gate and SFPUC.