A few weeks ago, I was reading an opinion piece about drinking fountains on washingtonpost.com. The piece talked about how drinking fountains used to be "a revered feature of urban life," but attitudes have now changed. What is free is not appreciated.
Public drinking fountains, like fire hydrants, represent the immense investment that public utilities have made to protect public health and ensure prosperity. They show that utilities have invested trillions of dollars across the country to assure that you, firefighters, businesses have the water you need, when you need it. And, if you get thirsty while you are walking or playing sports at the park, all you have to do is press a button for all the water you want to satiate your thirst.
On a weekend in July, I was taking a bicycle ride with my family on the North Coast Inland Trail, a 13-mile long "rails-to-trails" park in Lorain County, Ohio. There are two drinking fountains along the length of the trail. I, my family, and several others certainly appreciated and made good use of those fountains.
I believe very strongly in the importance of drinking fountains and what they represent. In fact, within the last year, my organization has provided water-bottle filling stations to Avon Lake City Schools, Avon Lake Public Library, Avon Lake City Hall, and elsewhere. Today, many people carry refillable water bottles with them to assure they are hydrated.
That is great. I believe people should not have to pay $1 or more to have the water that they are carrying be bottled water—especially when 80% of all water bottles are not recycled. If they bring a reusable bottle with them, they can fill up for free.
As part of the agreement to provide the water-bottle filling stations, we are providing water-related factoids above the filling stations. We hope this information will help remind users about the good choices they are making to take a drink or refill their bottle and will, over time, hopefully prompt them to convince others to do the same.
Water utilities will not go out of business due to market share lost to the bottled water industry. The average American now drinks 34 gallons of bottled water a year (I drink 0.), which means the average family drinks 100 gallons of bottled water per year. When one considers lost revenue for both water and wastewater, we have lost less than $0.50 per year per household. (Compare that to the $250 to $1,000 each family has spent on bottled water, and one wonders why people buy bottled water.)
The reason we promote drinking fountains is because we want people to understand and appreciate the investment, begun generations ago, that gives us what we all enjoy today, including the water delivered to the drinking fountains that quench your thirst, the toilets that flush away disease, the hydrants that save us and our homes from fires, and the running water for industries that provide countless livelihoods. I certainly thank you for filling your reusable bottle, and hope you smile whenever you refill as you remember part of the reason this country is great is because of the investment we all have made, via our federal tax dollars (for the former grants programs and the current revolving loan programs) and payments of rates to water utilities, in the systems that provide water across this incredible land.