Saskatoon councillors want 'minimum standard of water access' at arenas, not debate about bottle ban

Saskatoon city councillors expressed their disappointment Monday with either the lack of, or inadequate supply of, water filling stations and fountains at some popular destinations.

No city-owned hockey rinks have water filling stations, city councillors hear

The City of Saskatoon is not recommending that water bottle sales be banned at its public facilities. (The Associated Press)

Some Saskatoon city councillors want the city to ensure "a minimum standard of water access" at arenas, leisure centres and other city-owned buildings rather than debate whether to ban bottled water sales at those places.

Councillors on the environment committee requested a report from city administration on the topic Monday morning after voicing their disappointment with the lack of water filling stations at any of the city's hockey rinks and a less-than-ideal spread of stations and water fountains in other buildings.

"I can think of two recent buildings, one being the Nutrien Playland, the other being the Remai Modern, where, despite being very new buildings that are up to code, we certainly did not provide an abundance of fountains and fill stations in those projects," said councillor Mairin Loewen.

"I think of kids and families and everybody out playing hockey and they've got their water bottle," echoed Mayor Charlie Clark. "I've been in facilities where you're trying to put your water bottle under this bathroom tap and trying to figure out how to fill it up.

"I'd like to know what a plan would be to do some of these retrofits."

Councillors also called on the city to list the buildings where fill stations and fountains could be replaced.  

Call for bottle sales ban

​The debate came as the City of Saskatoon recommended against bottled water sales being banned at its facilities, despite one group's call for it.

A year and a half ago, the Saskatoon chapter of the Council of Canadians asked the city to consider banning bottled water sales at its offices, arenas and leisure centres.

"We believe that access to affordable clean water is a human right and it should be in the public sphere," said Dave Greenfield, an activist with the chapter, on Sunday.  

"You have companies taking water and bottling it and selling it for a price that's a lot higher than what you would normally be paying for just water out of a tap. It creates a mentality that we somehow supposedly need water out of a bottle," he said. 

Easier said than done

The city has thought about it and concluded that a ban is not so simple. For one, not all facilities have an adequate number of water stations or fountains, according to a new city report.

The International Building Code recommends that buildings have one water fountain per 100 people in office buildings and one fountain per 1,000 people in recreational facilities.

Overall, city-owned fall short by 30 stations, according to the city.

Golf courses are particularly vulnerable, the city wrote.

"Phasing-out may result in inadequate access to potable water, which may pose a health risk given the physical nature of the activity and exposure to heat and sun."

The other reason against the ban is that the city can't simply breach its contract with water bottle vendors.

"If it's a question of contracts that have already been signed, presumably they would come up for renewal at some point, so I think rethinking the kinds of agreements they get into would be a good idea," said Greenfield.

The city agrees — to a point. The city says that contract switch-ups "could be used as a rationale for planning the phased delivery of new water stations."

Another alternative is education encouraging people to buck the bottle.

Councillors on the city's environment committee will rap about this Monday.

The Canadian Beverage Association says about 150 people in the Saskatoon area are employed by the bottled beverage industry.


Guy Quenneville

Reporter at CBC Saskatoon

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