UCSF Sustainability Stories

Deborah Fleischer & Jennifer Armenta, Green Impact, November 2015

UCSF Installs new Bottle-Filling Stations: Five Reasons to Fall in Love with SF Tap Water

Water PosterBeing 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 water is healthy, tastes better, costs less, is high quality and is better for the environment.

Now it is easier than ever to fall in love with SF tap water: carry your own bottle and look for the new bottle-filling stations around UCSF.

Reason #1: It is a Healthy, Free Alternative to Sugary Beverages

By November 1, 2015, UCSF will begin to only sell zero-calorie beverages or non-sweetened drinks with nutritional value, such as milk and 100% juice. UCSF will phase out the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages in its onsite eateries, including cafeterias, vending machines and retail locations. This change is part of the Healthy Beverage Initiative.

Leeane Jensen, UCSF Wellness Manager, explained, “UCSF’s mission is advancing health worldwide. In putting that mission to action, it is important that UCSF is also attentive to advancing health on its own campus and in its medical centers. Eliminating the sell of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is a great example of how UCSF is doing just that—and practicing what it preaches. Numerous researchers and medical professionals (some even at UCSF!) have proven that SSBs can be extremely detrimental to health because they provide no nutritional value, come loaded with added sugars, and thus are a main culprit of obesity, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, heart disease and tooth decay. UCSF is living its mission and modeling health by implementing the healthy beverage initiative all across the University.”

Health scientists at UCSF developed SugarScience, a national evidence-based initiative about sugar’s impact on health. As a health sciences university and medical center, we know from research in behavioral economics and public health that people tend to make food and drink choices based on convenience and accessibility. An easy way to avoid sugar is to drink water.

Leeane stressed, “Water is always the healthiest option and really the only beverage your body cannot live without. I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle to work every day and refilling at some of the new filling stations around campus. San Francisco has some of the best water quality in the nation. Its free and healthy to drink tap water at work—can’t beat it as the beverage of choice!”

Reason #2:  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. Last year in a 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.” Try your own taste test in the office and see if you can tell the difference between SF tap and bottled water.

Reason #3: SF Water is High Quality

Water Image LandscapeTyrone 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 #4: 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 Director 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.” In the 2013 calendar year, UCSF spent over $100,000 on Arrowhead bottled water in offices.

Reason #5: 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 new water bottle refilling stations to provide everyone with free access to high-quality Hetch Hetchy tap water while on the go. Bottle filling stations have been created at the following water fountains:


School of Dentistry 1st floor (D-1008)
School of Dentistry 3rd floor (D-3205)
School of Dentistry 4th floor (D-4209)
School of Nursing 3rd floor
School of Nursing 4th floor (N-423)
School of Nursing 5th floor (N-523)
School of Nursing 6th fl
School of Nursing 7th floor (N-721)
Medical Sciences Building 2nd floor (S-245)
Medical Sciences Building 3rd floor (S-380)
Medical Sciences Building 4th floor (S-488)
Medical Sciences Building 5th floor
Medical Sciences Building 6th floor (S-699MC)
Medical Sciences Building 7th floor (S-742)
Medical Sciences Building 9th floor (S-980)
Medical Sciences Building 10th floor (S-10 M12)
Medical Sciences Building 11th floor (S-1183)
Medical Sciences Building 13th floor (S-1343)
Medical Sciences Building 14th floor
Koret, 2nd floor (K-207)
Health Sciences East 1634
Millberry Union P1 Elevator
Millberry Union Gym (Men’s locker)
Millberry Union Gym (Women’s locker)
Millberry Union Gym (Studio 1)
Millberry Union Gym (Studio 2)
Millberry Union Gymnasium
Millberry Union Gym (Free weight room)
Millberry Union Gym (Swimming pool)
Ambulatory Care Clinic Main Lobby
Ambulatory Care Clinic A05 clinic (Irving St entrance)

Mission Bay

Cardiovascular Research Building, 1st floor (SC-159)
Cardiovascular Research Building, 2nd floor (252D)
Cardiovascular Research Building, 3th floor (352D)
Cardiovascular Research Building, 4th floor (452D)
Rutter Center indoor pool deck
Rutter Center 1st floor near conf center
Rutter Center 4th floor near 414
Rutter Center 1st floor (CC181)
Rutter Center 1st floor (CC182)
Rutter Center 2nd floor (women’s locker)
Rutter Center 2nd floor (men’s locker)

Mt Zion
Mt Zion Main Lobby

Learn More
Sugar Science
Healthy Beverage Initiative
Food and Water Watch

Story by Green Impact