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One Bottle at a Time

In early July, Nestlé Waters Canada announced that it donated $35,000 worth of bottled water to Project Water, a volunteer organization that evolved in response to the dehydration health crisis that the homeless who live in the Greater Toronto Area face during the summer months.

Water Canada spoke with Jody Steinhauer, president of The Bargains Group and founder of Project Water, to get the details.

Since being established in 2000, Project Water has distributed more than one million bottles of water to more than 160 frontline agencies in the GTA—how is water distributed to those in need? JS: We distribute to social service frontline agencies selected based on an application in which they detail how they’ll get the water out there—some of the main agencies include the Salvation Army, the Canadian Red Cross, Street Health Bus, St. John Ambulance, the Scott Mission and the YWCA.

We’re also connected with social workers, street nurses, outreach vans, drop-ins, and places where there wouldn’t
be water otherwise. Have you run into critics who protest
your use of bottled water? What’s your organization’s stance on the bottled water issue?

JS: A couple of years back we decided to be environmentally conscious. We partnered with Danamark WaterCare, and every year the company contributes 12 permanent water filtration units into shelters. We’ve now outfitted over 50 shelters with water filtration units. Along
with units, Danamark has donated 300- 400 refillable water bottles. Yes, there’s an environmental concern
[about bottled water], but Nestlé Waters Canada should be commended for standing behind this project and making
a difference year after year. The company even brought recycling bins to our big water distribution launch event.

Ultimately, if we had a way of getting drinking water out to the people [who don’t stay at the shelters], without using
bottles, we would. But saving people is our first priority—the people that need this water are not always going to be able to get to a water fountain.

Do you have plans for Project Water’s expansion in the future? JS: We’ve been asked to expand the project to other urban centres that desperately need it, and we will—with the right partnership.