Drinking fountains (also known as water fountains) are a common resources for water drinking on campus. Most drinking fountains located close to the lecture rooms, which are much convenient for students to use them. I personally brought my own water bottle or mineral water with me to classes, but there would always be times I totally forget about it. During those moments, the only water resources I could drink from is the drinking fountains (and they are everywhere in the building!). However, I sometimes would think about if it’s really sanitary to use a public drinking fountain, since it has already been used by so many people before I did. Maybe I’ve been worried too much, but I decided it might be a good idea to do my blog research on this topic.
A drinking water survey report written by senior students from Vassar College listed that, most students on campus drink water from the water fountains (69.1%) instead of buying bottle water (27.3%).
(Image produced from the water survey report linked in the blog. Clink on the image if you want to have a better view of it)
This shows that the drinking fountain is a popular resources compared to the others. However, when the survey asked about “sources of concern with regard to fountain water” the responses that contain the most percentage is “metals”, which is an interesting thing to discuss about.
There are different causes that make the water from a drinking fountains not safe, the metal contamination from an old pipe would be one of those. An article said that some of the high schools have old pipes, so the metal might flake into the water causing a contamination. Marc Edwards, a civil engineer at Virginia Tech explain that although people know there might be the possibility of lead contamination, most schools don’t even test their pipes because it is expensive for the remediation. The article also said that the cost shouldn’t be an excuse, because there are always cheaper solutions that can solve the problem, such as putting filters on the drinking fountains.
Another problem with drinking fountain is that they have already been used by many people in public before you did. Some of the people might even be sick! What Diseases Can You Catch from a Water Fountain mentioned that the handles of a drinking fountain are the most contaminated surfaces compare to the other parts. They are contaminate with influenza A and norovirus. This is reasonable, consider the surface of it would always remain moist , which increase the growth of bacterial. So how can we prevent this? The article also mentioned several points to reduce the risk of contagious of disease or contracting germs, which I summarised below:
- Run the water a little bit before start drinking it, because you don’t want to contaminated the illness by someone else
- Your mouth shouldn’t touch any of the surface areas
- Do not touch the base of the drinking fountain
- Wash your hands after using it would be a good idea to remain sanitary
I’m sure you started to think about which type of water supplies would be safer for us to drink. The article I mentioned above suggests that it would be better to fill out water bottles with filtered water on your own, but I think it would be an exaggeration to avoid drinking fountains completely. First of all, all those research paper written about water from drinking fountains would cause illness are related to kids or elementary school students. As a college student, I think we already have the immunisation towards those diseases. Also, some article conclude that bottle water aren’t as purify as we thought as well! As Andrew mentioned in class before, sometimes we need to know all the cause and benefits, not just focusing on one point. So if we view this issue in a broader perception, drinking from a drinking fountain or from bottle water doesn’t make any differences at all. Just take care of yourself, and choose the one you like.