Wednesday, 11 August 2010

...public drinking fountains, too.

Fire Fighters Museum  of Winnipeg
Fire-horse trough from Portage and Main ca.1900

The first round of public drinking fountains, which was usually a combination human fountain and horse trough, went up in the city in the 1881-1882 budget year courtesy of the city waterworks department. In 1902 when the city hall grounds were redone two drinking fountains were installed on what was the most public square in the city.

Doggie water fountain
I have always felt that water fountains, almost as rare as public toilets nowadays, should be part and parcel of the toilet debate. In recent years the importance of proper hydration, especially for active kids, has become top of mind while the supply of public water fountains has declined.

Last month the U.K.'s Children's Food Campaign released a study entitled Thirsty play: a survey of drinking water provision in public parks. Their research found that of 140 London parks only 11% of them had water fountains and just two-thirds of those actually worked.

Of course that's where the bottled water industry steps in to save us, right ?

The Campaign claims that by making kids to go to the store to quench their thirst they more often settle for pop and other sugary drinks rather than the plain, old water that they need.

An unrelated study of Philadelphia children in the journal Pediatrics in November 2009 found that when kids go to the corner store they purchase an average of 360 calories worth of food and beverages per visit. A vast majority of it considered junk food.

Boris Johnson's 2008 London mayoral campaign included a pledge to add fountains to parks but nothing has come of it, something pointed out in this 2009 article in the Evening Standard. With the release of the Children's Food Campaign report there is also a coinciding campaign to pressure local officials to fix up existing fountains and provide new ones in public parks.

A bit like the toilet debate. An idea over a century old that needs to make a comeback.

Lack of public water fountains bad for kids health The Guardian
How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It N.Y. Times (Review)

'H20 to go'
City of Toronto

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