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  • Gabrielle Hendricks

Hard Water and Health

Water status report in the apartment buildings on campus. Photographed by Eileen Rosewater

At a recent Student Government Association meeting on campus, a student brought up the problems of the hard, calcium-filled shower water on campus. Other students chimed in after, speaking about skin and scalp issues they have experienced because of the shower water in their buildings. While some students feel that water on campus is a danger to their skin health, others feel indifferent or simply do not know about the situation.

At the SGA meeting, where the hard water was initially brought up, mostly women students commented on how the water has made their hair crunchy, caused eczema flare ups and even rashes. This is not the first time the quality of water affecting students’ health has come up. In late 2021, the university addressed the issue of unsafe drinking water with exceeding levels of Perfluorooctanoic Acid and Perfluorooctane Sulfonate.

This is the first time, however, the water’s effect on skin has been acknowledged.

Students on campus who already have sensitive skin seem to be more prone to skin problems from the shower water. Katherine Fischer (C’25) who resides in McCaffrey Hall said, “I have really sensitive skin, to the point where I don’t use Cetaphil which is the mildest product on the market. I’ve noticed acne on my skin and my hair is crunchy which is really uncomfortable. I don’t notice it at home and I’m on well water at home.” Students strongly believe that if they pay tuition and boarding, they should have their hygiene needs met without any issues. Having skin flare ups is something nobody should have to experience, especially when it is preventable.

Other students who have not had any skin symptoms from the water have also complained, because they either worry about future side effects or simply feel uncomfortable with the water quality. Alexandra Zavala (C’24) who lives in Powell said, “I’ve noticed some calcium build-up, but the water doesn’t really bother me, however, when I open the faucets in the apartment it’s very cloudy.”

The fact that some students have visibly noticed the poor quality of the water is a sign that something needs to be done. Having comfortability and assurance that the water you use every day is important. Not knowing the status of the quality of the water can be distracting in everyday life. The only concern a student should have is about their academics, not their health.

Tyler Kokie (C’24), who lives in McCaffrey, has also been openly dissatisfied with the water quality. He stated, “I think this is a safety hazard to students because studies have shown that this kind of water can dry out your skin and damage it.” Kokie is correct--many credible sources prove that mineral build up in water causes flare ups because it strips away the natural oils in the skin. It throws off the skin’s pH which can even be painful for students who are prone to eczema and rashes.

Some students who have not noticed any issues with the water were unaware of the situation. Malcolm Stidham (C’22) who lives in Horning Towers and did not know about the hard water said, “Personally I don’t see a problem with it [the shower water]. It seems the same as any other place.” Even though some students such as Stidham have not experienced any issues, there needs to be acknowledgement from administration about the complaints from others. The student body should also be made aware of hard water so they can make the choice to buy a filter for their shower head and take other preventable measures for their skin’s health.

Ultimately, the health of students is most important. Students should not have to experience or worry about problems regarding their skin and hair, especially when it is preventable. Hopefully the administration addresses this situation soon.


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