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Choose a Fountain Over a Hydrant for Casual Summer Cooldowns

2011 August 29

By Kasia Broussalian

Summer heat waves in the city can be unbearable, and for those of us living with limited or no air conditioning, downright dangerous. While open fire hydrants offer a popular and nostalgic way of cooling off during these wretched afternoons, a city fountain offers the same relief without the dire possible consequences.

Opening a fire hydrant – which is illegal – wastes about 1,000 gallons of water per minute. That’s nearly as much as one household uses per year. Open fire hydrants put the city at risk for dangerously low water pressure; a critical strain on the fire department if water is needed to quell a fire. Not only that, but low water pressure also affects local hospitals and businesses as well. 

The strain on water resources aside, an illegally opened hydrant poses significant safety threats. The force of the water rushing out is enough to throw a child to the ground, with possible severe injuries. The force of such a stream also causes visual imparity for oncoming traffic, putting children and people splashing in the hydrant’s spray at risk. 

What’s a better alternative? Many parks throughout the city host some kind of fountain that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but a sensible replacement for a hydrant—minus the water waste and threat of injury. Some of the most accessible fountains are at Washington Square Park, Columbus Circle, and outside the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens, but many more exist! In this photo, a young girl runs and jumps through a timed fountain in Battery Park, just avoiding the spray.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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