Paul Thorn, director of Washware Essentials, specialist supplier of commercial sanitaryware including drinking fountains.
The drinking fountain used to be an everyday fixture in the lives of school children – but now, this convenient source of hydration is slowly being taken away, thanks to completely unfounded concerns about safety. In this article, we’ll dispel some of the myths around water fountains and show how the education sector would benefit from their return.
The importance of water
A recent study surveying UK parents has shown that 60% of schools do not provide access to drinking water throughout the day. According to the same study, an incredible 73% of students have no access to water from a drinking fountain.
This lack of water can cause students to become dehydrated, which in turn causes symptoms such as headaches, tiredness, irritability and disrupted concentration. It is well known that students that drink water during exams get better grades, making it absolutely vital for students to have access to water throughout the day.
MYTH: Water fountains are unsanitary
This is probably the most common misconception when it comes to drinking fountains. In fact, the risk of a water fountain becoming contaminated is minimal, and modern designs place a greater emphasis on health and safety than ever before. The areas of a fountain that are most likely to harbour bacteria are the parts that are touched by hand – but this presents no more of a risk than when a student opens a door to a classroom or touches a hand rail.
With correct maintenance and regular cleaning, stainless steel drinking fountains are extremely safe and can play an important role within our schools. Compared to bottled water, tap water has to meet scrupulous quality standards, and has to be tested on a regular basis.
MYTH: Usage will cause lead poisoning
This misconception stems from an incident in 1986, when lead was leaking into the water system from pipes and fountains, which caused an international crisis.
However, over the past three decades, water fountain manufacturers have updated their designs and no longer use lead components, preventing the risk of contamination and making water fountains completely safe to use. Water is now regularly tested for any contaminants, including lead and pathogens.
MYTH: Not environmentally friendly
Drinking fountains are often associated with leaky pipes and dripping taps, but thanks to modern drinking fountain designs, this is no longer a problem. Regular maintenance will ensure that there is no leaking and current fountain designs have brought water wastage down to an absolute minimum.
Conversely, bottled water takes a massive toll on the environment, with four out of five water bottles ending up in landfill.
MYTH: Hard to maintain
Of course, drinking fountains require regular maintenance, but the checks and cleaning are easy to carry out. Your drinking fountain supplier will give you guidelines on installation, cleaning and maintenance.
MYTH: Fountains are expensive
Stainless steel drinking fountains can cost anywhere between £140 – £555 – but compared to the incredible expense of bottled water, the cost of a drinking fountain is actually extremely low.
The US Environmental Protection Agency states that bottled water is 750-2,700 times more expensive than tap water. Given that schools need to provide a regular supply of drinking water for their students while keeping costs to a minimum, the drinking fountain is the best option all round – especially as sustainable water policies become more stringent.