Water, Water Everywhere: How Do You Know It's Clean?

Bottle filling stations are popping up in schools and businesses. They aren't just cool to look at; they also reduce waste and their filtration mechanisms ensure a clean drink for all. In light of heightened concern about lead in drinking water (read Rye's water report here), people are searching for alternatives to tap water. Bottled water? It's expensive and wasteful. Two recent articles address why bottled water is bad for you, the environment, and water. You can read them here and here.

Bottle filling stations could be one easy, inexpensive and waste-reducing solution. Read RSC contributing writer Sonja Bartlett's in-depth piece here and decide for yourself.  Wouldn't it be terrific if we had more bottle filling stations in our public spaces?

water, Water Everywhere: HOW DO YOU KNOW IT's CLean?

By Sonja Bartlett

Turns out what’s good for the earth is also good for our health. Did you know that those water bottle filling stations that are popping up in our area schools don’t just save on plastic water bottle use but they also FILTER OUT LEAD?

The filtered bottle fillers are a terrific addition to the District. They encourage students to drink water, rather than sodas or other sugary drinks and they drastically reduce the number of plastic bottles heading to our landfills. At one filling station ... alone, we’ve saved 28,286 disposable plastic water bottles.
— Sam Carder, Director of Facilities, Rye City School District

Once a novelty found mostly in high-end gyms, water bottle filling stations are on the rise in Rye area schools. The Rye City School District boasts 24, with plans for 15 more. Independent schools in our area including Eagle Hill, Hackley, Rippowam Cisqua, and Rye Country Day have recently installed them as well. Not only do they make life easy for kids and adults with water bottles in tow, but unlike the older plumbing fixtures and traditional drinking fountains, they actually filter out lead.

This generation is growing up not thinking twice about refilling water bottles at school because of the Elkay EZH2O, the market leader on this product, which seems to have little competition. It might look like a traditional drinking fountain from a distance but in the back it has a simple spigot made specifically for filling up water bottles. A digital counter lets users know how many plastic bottles have been spared because of this simple act.  The instant positive feedback for the user cannot be discounted.

It is made by a Chicago-based, family owned business called Elkay, which makes a variety of plumbing supplies. But the EZ-H2O rapid water filling station is what has gotten this company a lot of buzz lately as more and more schools realize the double benefit –health and sustainability- it delivers for their students and all the adults who work in their buildings. 

"I have to bring my water bottle to school every day. It is the rule. So we love refilling them and seeing the number of plastic bottles we have saved." (Meredith Bartlett, 3rd Grader at Rippowam Cisqua School)

"I have to bring my water bottle to school every day. It is the rule. So we love refilling them and seeing the number of plastic bottles we have saved." (Meredith Bartlett, 3rd Grader at Rippowam Cisqua School)

The price tag for the EZH2O ranges from $400 to $1000, depending on the model. You can even find them on Amazon. But getting them installed incurs plumbing costs that will vary from building to building, often putting some schools in a tough spot financially.

Elkay was fielding so many requests from schools across the country for donations of these filling stations that they knew they had to do something. Linda Carlisle, a company spokesperson says they had to come up with a creative response to all the demand.

Budgets aside, we knew all this demand was a good problem to have. We decided that instead of giving away a set number of the EZH2O filling stations each year, we would find a way to help the schools raise the funds they needed to purchase them at a special school-discounted price, and offering a fundraising solution to help them raise that amount. It’s a win-win.
— Linda Carlisle, Elkay Spokesperson

Elkay partnered with EcoVessel, a reusable water bottle maker, to launch a student-led fundraising program to help the schools get filling stations at a special price. The students apply online and EcoVessel provides stainless steel water bottles with the school logo on them to sell in a student-led fundraiser. The funds raised are used to buy the EZH2O at a discounted price. It’s clearly a teachable moment for the kids, a hands-on community service opportunity, and a way for the school population to use fewer disposable plastic bottles.

The water bottle station at Row America Rye.

The water bottle station at Row America Rye.

We all know it ‘s not always easy to do the right thing by the environment. Filling up water bottles on the go used to be messy and awkward at best. Who could not be forgiven for grabbing that case of plastic water bottles at Costco and leaving them in the trunk? Did anyone see?  Just for emergencies, right?!

However it does seem a new horizon is in front of us. The water bottle filling stations are now at every turn, offering fresh, cold, lead-free water…. A simple change in how we live our daily lives that will clearly have an enormous impact on our planet now that an entire generation seems to see this as a normal part of their day.

Healthier for us, healthier for our planet.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful next step for our public buildings to start installing water bottle filling stations as well?