Bring Back the Water Fountain

A Water-on-the-Go fountain on Wall Street (EPA photo/Kasia Broussalian)

By Alyssa Arcaya

EPA is partnering with mayors in cities across the US to bring back the water fountain!   In cooperation with the United States Conference of Mayors, EPA has committed to work with mayors and cities to invest in public water fountains and promote the benefits of drinking tap water.

New York City is known for having some of the best tasting tap water in the country.  It’s so good that one private company actually bottles and sells it – clearly labeled as New York City tap water.  New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) estimates that tap water costs the public just $0.01 per gallon, making it about 1000 times cheaper than bottled water.  Still, Americans consume about 50 billion bottles of water per year.  Bottled water isn’t just expensive, it’s resource intensive too.  The Pacific Institute estimates that 17 million gallons of oil are required to produce the bottled water that Americans drink in a single year.   But bottled water is convenient, which is one reason we buy so much of it.  Invigorating our system of public drinking fountains is one way to make tap water more accessible for New Yorkers and the tourists that visit the city.

DEP has begun to expand the network of drinking fountains in New York City through its Water-on-the-Go program.  When summer comes, they place portable fountains in parks, plazas and greenmarkets across the five boroughs.   DEP portable water fountains have also made appearances at Fashion Week, Staten Island Yankees’ games and other special events.  Some of the fountains even have special spigots that can be used to fill a dog’s bowl.  DEP has developed a smartphone app that can help you locate their water fountains when they’re back this summer.

Through our taxes, we all pay to support our public drinking water systems.  By expanding the system of public drinking fountains, we can provide access to clean, safe tap water and reduce our reliance on bottled water and other, less healthy options.  EPA is looking for more mayors and cities to sign up to support public water fountains in their communities.  For more information, check out the EPA page.

About the Author: Alyssa Arcaya serves as EPA Region 2’s water coordinator.  She came to EPA through the Presidential Management Fellows program, through which she also worked for EPA’s Office of International and Tribal Affairs and the Water Team at the U.S. Department of State.  She graduated from Yale’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies with a Masters in Environmental Management.