City of Vancouver supports public drinking water stations

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The following article was written by Serena Calder (@serena_calder) and re-posted with the permission of Hilary Henegar (@granvillemag).  The piece originally appeared on Granville Online’s Eds. et. al. blog on August 30, 2010.

It’s a sunny afternoon and you’re walking along the Seawall when you realize you forgot your reusable water bottle. You’re thirsty, and faced with a choice: either stop at the concession stand up ahead to buy bottled water, or wander around nearby parks in search of a public drinking fountain that may or may not work.

Boosting public drinking fountains is one way Vancouver is helping to say “good-bye” to the plastic bottle

As the City of Vancouver works to phase out bottled water and raise awareness of the high quality of municipal tap water supplies, it confronts the challenges of increasing accessibility and awareness of public tap water sources, like drinking fountains.

A portable water fountain at the northeast corner of Commercial and Broadway. The City of Vancouver has added four more stations around town.

Sarah Messel, of the City’s engineering services department, said Vancouver has about 250 drinking fountains maintained by the Board of Parks, and about 25 maintained by the engineering department, but so far no convenient way for residents to locate them.

“Our goal is to have all the locations on our Vanmap and open data service,” Messel said, adding that this should be finished this summer.

Even if people knew where to find the fountains, the question remains whether or not people would use them. An April 2009 administrative report to the city services and budget committee notes many people perceive drinking fountains as dirty and unhygienic, and often used as a water source for dogs or by the homeless for bathing.

The inscription on the water fountain at Victory Square in Vancouver reads, "Donated to the Citizens of Vancouver by Mary Stewart, 1960."

But Kareece Goh, an Australian traveler, thinks that Vancouver’s public fountains and taps are great, especially because of Metro Vancouver’s water quality (called “the purest tap water in the world” by some).

“It tastes a lot better than the water back home,” she said. “I’ve been here for two and a half months and I’ve been drinking tap water all the time.”

Improving public perception is just one factor in encouraging increased tap water consumption. Currently, drinking fountains are turned off from November to April. In order to boost the role of drinking fountains in a move towards tap water reliance, Messel says the City is piloting two freeze-resistant water fountains that can function throughout winter, and installing little taps on the outside of buildings for residents to refill water bottles.

Messel is hopeful about these developments. “There is a need for fountains, but there is also a need for these taps,” she said. “I think that’s going to expand quite a bit.”

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2 Responses to “City of Vancouver supports public drinking water stations”

  1. Peter Cech Says:

    We do have some of the best tap water anywhere, and Metro Vancouver is making it easier to find those fountains with a free iPhone app called Tap Map (http://bit.ly/g3nDaH). Apps for Androids and Blackberries are in the works.

    It’s true that most outdoor public drinking fountains are turned off in the winter, and that’s reflected in Tap Map.

    That’s also the reason that Metro Vancouver is appealing to the region’s restaurants to opt in to Tap Map (http://bit.ly/gZognA).

    You can help by encouraging your local restaurants and coffee shops to opt in as locations where anyone can ask to have their reusable water bottles refilled.

  2. leahnielsen Says:

    Thanks for the information and links Peter!

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