The 5 biggest myths about drinking fountains

Paul Thorn, Director of Washware Essentials, banishes the myths surrounding drinking fountains and explains why they’re essential in schools

There are a lot of concerns about the risks of public drinking fountains, but these are often unfounded or misrepresented. In this article we take a look at the five biggest myths surrounding drinking fountains – where the myths come from, and how wrong they are.

1. Nobody needs drinking fountains in a world with bottled water

Access to water in school is supremely important. Drinking fountains provide convenient hydration, which dramatically improves cognitive performance. Parents know this, and have been calling for better hydration facilities in schools for years. Research by the Natural Hydration Council revealed that 43% of parents surveyed noticed signs of dehydration in their children after school, and that 25% of children arrive at school with nothing to drink during the day.

Schools, colleges and universities have a responsibility to provide clean, affordable water, in order for their students to stay healthy and maintain their concentration. They could simply give out bottles, of course, but the backlash against bottled water has been gathering for a while now, fuelled by concerns about the ecological impact, the expense and the energy wastage involved in bottling water.

Some conference venues provide reusable glass bottles, in an effort to reduce waste and minimise their carbon footprint, however drinking fountains represent an even more economical solution – there’s nothing to break, nothing to carry, nothing to be lost or stolen, and once they’re set up they just keep on working.

2. Drinking fountains supply tap water, and tap water isn’t safe

“Most people over the age of 40 have positive stories of drinking fountains,” said urban designer Scott Francisco. “But the sense today is that they’re dangerous, they’re not maintained, and they’re dirty.” Aggressive marketing of bottled water during the 1970s and 80s relied on making consumers mistrust the tap, which is a legacy that still persists today.

Nowadays, despite drinking water being subject to more stringent quality control rules than bottled, and despite a 99% rate of compliance with water purity rules across the UK, the legacy of those marketing efforts lives on. Concerns about chlorine in drinking water, for instance, tend to overlook the fact that chlorine is added to drinking water (not to mention swimming pools) in safe amounts as an antibacterial agent.

3. Drinking fountains break down – bottles don’t

We’ll keep this short. Drinking fountains require minimal fuss and maintenance. As long as they’re cleaned regularly there’s not a lot that can go wrong with them. A sticking tap is about the limit of the mechanical problems that come up, and that can be avoided with regular, simple maintenance.

4. Drinking fountains are dirty

Horror stories about drinking fountains circulate all the time: public drinking fountains are birds’ nests, rubbish bins, chewing gum depositories or just plain dirty. Often, you’ll hear, they’re just a bowl of stagnant water in the street! It’s true – public drinking fountains do get a bit grubby, especially outdoors. This isn’t the fountain’s fault, though – it’s the owner’s! Right now, public bathrooms are becoming safer and more hygienic, particularly in schools, where the drinking fountain has long held out as a provider of crucial, concentration-boosting hydration.

5. Drinking fountains are dangerous

Concerns that school pupils can hurt themselves on drinking fountains are, putting it politely, missing the point. Nine-year-old Lewis Pierce may have hurt himself on a stainless steel fountain when he missed throwing a punch at his younger brother, but the fountain wasn’t the right choice for a punchbag anyway, and poor Lewis would have suffered just as much had he punched any other part of the school premises, such as a wall or the school gates and probably even his brothers front tooth.

Drinking fountains offer a safe, low maintenance and economical means for providing hydration to students and educational Facility Managers should not be put off by the myths and scare stories promoted by bottled water manufacturers. It’s clearly important to choose the right fountain for your needs; economical, robust and elegant, but with the wide range of drinking fountains on offer today you have a wealth of options available to you – including installations with no sharp edges.

For more information, visit Washware Essentials’ website.



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