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Municipality, hotels work together to promote tap water

New initiative aims to encourage visitors to ditch plastic water bottles

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A new initiative between the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) and the Hotel Association of Whistler is targeting the resort's nearly 3 million annual visitors as it continues working on its environmental initiatives.

This partnership aims to reduce the use of disposable plastic water bottles in the resort by reassuring hotel guests that they can drink Whistler's water straight from the tap.

"What we noticed is that often guests check into a hotel, and as soon as they're checked in and settled in they go to a local grocery store and they buy flats of water and bring them back to the hotel. That's a clear indicator that people are not comfortable with the tap water. Of course, when the hotels go back to clean the rooms, they're constantly removing empty plastic bottles," said Saad Hasan, chair of the Hotel Association of Whistler.

The new initiative "is primarily a communications effort," explained Mayor Jack Crompton. "Letting guests know that Whistler's water is from a glacier on Rainbow Mountain, so it literally flows from a glacier into our taps. Not all guests who visit our community come from places where you can drink water out of the taps, so our goal is to ensure that visitors and the community appreciate the terrific water Whistler has."

He added, "We have some of the best tasting tap water in the world. British Columbia is water-rich, so why drink water from a bottle when you can drink wonderful glacier water right out of a tap?"

While the hotel association was already interested in finding ways to limit plastic water bottles throughout its properties, working with the municipality to promote tap-water consumption also offers it a sense of legitimacy that guests—and international hotel brands—can trust, Hasan said.

"In a hotel, when you are promoting it to hundreds of people travelling from all over the world, it was just good for the RMOW to reach out and provide assurances that the water is tested regularly, that it's good drinking water, and hence it became a collaborative affair," he explained.

Many local hotels have already been encouraging their guests to choose tap water for years, Hasan added. At the Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler, avoiding plastic water bottles is anything but new.

During evening turn-down service, "typically in any other part of the world or in any other five-star hotel, you would have plastic bottled water on your bedside table. We don't do that here," said Mohit Girdhar, assistant director of rooms at the Four Seasons. Instead, the hotel staff places carafes, handmade in Squamish and filled with Whistler's tap water, on each nightstand, alongside a glass—something they've been doing for years, he explained.

If guests question where the water is coming from, "our staff is fully briefed and trained to explain it's Whistler tap water; it's actually one of the best in the world to drink, and it's very safe to drink," Girdhar added. The Four Seasons also has reuseable Swell water bottles available for sale throughout the property and located in some suites, intended for guests to fill up from the taps.

The local initiative leaves it up to each hotel to independently decide the best way to communicate with their guests. Strategies will range from informing guests verbally upon check-in to in-room education, providing guests with reusable glass bottles and everything in between.

The initiative was signed three months ago and will be funded by the hotels. It builds on the RMOW's previous steps to reduce single-use water bottles, including eliminating the sale of bottled water at municipal properties, including Meadow Park Sports Centre and public parks in 2010. The municipality also maintains 20 public water fountains throughout the community, with even more slated for installation in 2019.

For more information about Whistler's drinking water, go to whistler.ca/drinkingwater.

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