Most of us consider public water fountains to be a great resource. Whether you’re out and about around town or sending the children to school, a public water fountain should provide access to great drinking water. Unfortunately, there may be contaminants lurking in public water fountains. While the water from a public water fountain may not be worse than your tap water at home, many homeowners have a water filtration system installed to combat any chemicals and toxins present in the supply. So, what could be lurking in your local public water fountain and should you be concerned about it?

The Risk Factors

The risk from public water fountains comes from two possible factors; the contaminants left behind by improper maintenance or cleaning, and contaminants that enter the water due to aging infrastructure, such as lead pipes.

Aging pipes together with lead solder contributes to lead leaching and other potentially undesirable compounds entering water supplies. Of course, the water in the sinks at these sites would be subject to the same contaminant levels as the drinking fountains.

The most probable contaminant in public drinking fountain is not likely to be a common water concern such as chlorine or nitrates, but rather a bacteria or virus that is spread from other fountain users, particularly children at school drinking fountains.

A study published in Pediatrics studied day care centers around the country. The team discovered that water fountains were a common carrier of rotavirus, a known cause of stomach upsets and diarrhea.

Another study documented that the handles on water fountains are one of the most contaminated surfaces in public schools. This creates a host of norovirus and influenza A.

National Geographic also revealed that over 2,000 U.S public schools have water supplies that violate federal cleanliness standards. One in five schools using well water was found to have supplies that contain dangerous contaminant levels.

The most common contaminants that were detected in these schools were arsenic, nitrates, copper, lead and coliform bacteria. Even in smaller doses, these chemicals and pathogens can cause some serious health issues, particularly in children.

What Can You Do?

There has been a big push nationally to rebuild the public trust in water fountains. A Pacific Institute white paper suggests that the risk of disease from a public drinking fountain is minimal, but what if you’re still concerned?

Although it’s likely that the water in your local water fountain is safe to drink, there is no sure fire way to know it definitively. Fortunately, there is a practical solution that won’t compromise your eco friendly lifestyle.

There is no need to buy bottled water and add more plastic waste to an increasing environmental problem. Instead, you can use a reusable water bottle. Buy a reusable bottle for every member of the family, and you can send your children to school with clean, crisp, filtered water. This means that you and your family can stay hydrated and not need to worry about any potential contaminants that could affect your health.

With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative.  Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.