Pacific Institute | By: Rapichan Phurisamban and Peter Gleick | GPE – July 17, 2017:
In February of 2017, the Pacific Institute released a white paper entitled Drinking Fountains and Public Health: Improving National Infrastructure to Rebuild Trust and Ensure Access, which highlighted the limited evidence of a link between illness and disease outbreaks and drinking fountains. The report found that most problems could be traced to contamination from poor cleaning and maintenance or old water infrastructure in buildings, and called for comprehensive testing of drinking fountains, implementation of standard protocols for fountain maintenance, and a nationwide effort to replace old water infrastructure, which can be the source of lead and other contaminants.
One aspect of efforts to expand access to fountains is to take a look at current drinking fountain technology and identify features that can help ensure their quality, convenience, and reliability. Ultimately, these features can help increase public confidence and access to high quality and affordable tap water.
A gallon of tap water from typical municipal water systems costs about half a cent, making drinking fountains the cheapest hydration source available in public spaces (and of course, almost all public fountains are completely free to the user). This cost may increase somewhat depending on the purchase, installation, and maintenance costs for each drinking fountain, but it remains far cheaper than the cost of bottled water, which typically ranges from $1 to $5 per gallon, or about 200 to 1,000 times more than tap water. (High-end bottled waters can be even far more costly.)
These costs do not include the environmental costs of the bottled water industry.
With many useful features that increase water quality and convenience, drinking fountains need no longer be the forgotten relics of the past. Cities, park districts, schools, hospitals, and other entities managing public spaces can offer fountains with many available options, including vandal resistance, freeze resistance, refrigeration, bottle filling, and filtration.
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