Exploring parks in the United Kingdom today, one might struggle to find a readily available source of public drinking water fountains for quenching their thirst. In 2010, the Children’s Food Campaign (CFC) conducted a survey of 140 parks, revealing that a mere 11% featured drinking water fountains. This statistic sharply contrasts with the public’s expressed interest in having drinking fountains available in public spaces.
A Historical Perspective on Drinking Fountains
While the 19th century boasted numerous public drinking sources, their prevalence has significantly diminished over time. Neglect and lack of maintenance have led to the deterioration and removal of many fountains. Officials often cite vandalism as a primary reason for the scarcity of drinking fountains, as location selection is influenced by security concerns.
Unfortunately, the shortage of water sources has pushed children and adults toward alternatives such as unhealthy sugary drinks or bottled water.
Impact on Children’s Health
Although not proven conclusively, NUT general secretary Christine Blower has attributed the absence of public drinking fountains as one of the reasons behind children’s increasing consumption of expensive sugary beverages. These very drinks have been linked to health issues like obesity and diabetes. In fact, a recent government report has urged parents to replace these cold drinks with water in their children’s diets.
Adults and the Bottled Water Predicament
Consumer bottled water consumption has surged in recent years. Market analyst group Mintel predicted that the industry will be worth over 2 billion dollars annually by 2016. While the rise in demand is partly driven by health awareness, it could be argued that the scarcity of publicly accessible drinking water sources also contributes to the reliance on bottled products.
However, conservationists raise concerns about the environmental impact of bottled water, emphasising its unsustainable nature.
The Hidden Costs of Bottled Spring Water
According to a report by the Pacific Institute, it takes approximately three times the volume of water to produce a single bottle of water before it even reaches store shelves. Furthermore, the manufacturing of plastic bottles consumes 17 million barrels of oil. Additionally, the transportation of spring water from its source to supermarkets and the subsequent disposal of non-recyclable bottles contribute significant amounts of CO2 emissions.
International Perspectives on Drinking Water Fountains
In the United States, there are approximately 155,000 public water systems that provide water to the general public at an average cost of 0.2 cents per litre. A survey published by the NCBI reveals satisfactory access to public drinking fountains, with 54% of adults who frequent parks reporting their use. Another study conducted by the University of Illinois (UIC) found that a significant 89.4% of children in schools have access to public drinking water.
The Vital Importance of Public Drinking Water Sources
The necessity for accessible water in public areas cannot be emphasised enough. The cost and health benefits of installing, maintaining, and repairing drinking fountains across the UK far outweigh any drawbacks. As research continues to highlight the importance of increased water consumption for both children and adults, more efforts must be made to ensure that public spaces are equipped with easily accessible drinking water fountains to quench people’s thirst.
This article was originally featured on Drinking Water Fountain’s blog.