At Michigan State University, plastic water bottles account for a large amount of campus waste, yet it is estimated that only 25 percent of the nearly three million water bottles on campus make their way to MSU's Recycling Center each year. To better understand water consumption and uncover areas for improvement, graduate students Cheng-Hua Liu, Melissa Rojas-Downing and Zhenci Xu partnered with MSU Sustainability to conduct a research survey that measured water usage and preference of the MSU community.

The survey began as a project for a Water Policy and Management course, where students were asked to work in interdisciplinary teams and with real-world professionals to address an issue related to water policy and management. "The project is a different perspective from most graduate school work such as literature review and research - it's a chance to interact with professionals and real people," said Dr. Erin Dreelin, Assistant Professor in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, "it also gave them an opportunity to communicate with individuals outside of the hard sciences and participate in research with actual application."

Liu, Rojas-Downing and Xu asked students, staff and faculty about their preferences for bottled water versus tap water on MSU's campus, specifically addressing which source was preferred and why. Over 1,200 participants responded, and the team gathered some interesting results: