Drinking In Some Non-Consumer Errands!

by Katy on July 17, 2014 · 56 comments

Today was a day to run a few walkable errands, despite the unpleasantly warm temperature. (89º, yes I’m a wimp.) I considered bringing a water bottle with me, but I realized that almost everywhere I would be hitting included a water fountain. And then I started to think about how when I was growing up in the 1970’s and 1980’s no one carried water, refillable or otherwise, yet we somehow didn’t die of dehydration.

We drank from water fountains.

My first stop was to New Season’s Market, where I dropped off the plastics recycling, as well as extra skateboard helmet foam that I forgot to give to the guy who bought it from my garage sale. Luckily, the buyer mentioned that he worked at New Season’s, so there’s a chance that the never-used foam can reunite with the helmet.

I also used the water fountain, which was both chilly and delicious:

New Season's drinking fountain

The next stop was the half-mile to the library, where I returned a couple of books and picked up a a DVD of From Up on Poppy Hill. Luckily, there was a Benson Bubbler fountain outside:

Benson bubbler

As well as a traditional indoor water fountain. Both were lip smackingly satisfying!

library drinking fountains

I was then off to the credit union, which I would guess was an addition half-mile. Unfortunately, the credit union didn’t have a water fountain, although you know that I asked. (I did find 55¢ under the coin counting machine, which helped to sooth my disappointment.)

But since I was picking up a few groceries at Fred Meyer, I knew I could just suck it up and use their water fountain. (Pun intended.)

Fred Meyer drinking fountains

But I gotta be honest here. I didn’t use this drinking fountain. Why? Well . . . the Fred Meyer drinking fountain is sandwiched between the bathrooms which lack doors. (The stalls have doors, but there’s no door to enter the rooms.) And someone had apparently just taken the dump of the century, and the smell was overwhelming.

Thanks, but I can wait the ten minutes until I’m home to get a drink of water.


Don’t get me wrong, I’m normally huge fan of packing a refillable water bottle when out and about, but since I knew about the drinking fountains, I was able to leave that generally heavy item at home.

Do you drink from drinking fountains or are you partial to your own water bottle? Please share your preference in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

AnnDenee July 17, 2014 at 1:32 am

Here in hot, arid Australia, it is the norm to grab a water bottle, but having only been here a year, I don’t know the history. In my small country town, public drinking fountains are not as common as they are back in the states. Maybe aussies share a gene with camels. 😉


Trish July 17, 2014 at 9:59 am

I read a book called ‘Mutant message down under’ about a woman who goes walkabout with an aboriginal tribe. the aborigines did indeed think that white men are addicted to water. such a fascinating book!!


Constance July 19, 2014 at 1:26 pm

I’ve read that book, and seen the author speak, totally fascinating!


Lucy July 17, 2014 at 3:09 am

I honestly can’t remember the last time I saw a drinking fountain!


Sue Robinson July 17, 2014 at 3:11 am

I would love to use water fountains. I really would. But the ones I encounter are always icky or someone ahead of me has put their lips directly on the spout. I’m really not a germaphobe, but that kind of grosses me out.


Lynda D. July 17, 2014 at 6:42 am

Katy, I love the history of the Benson Bubblers! Thanks for including it.
I remember using water fountains all the time when I was growing up. And, during the summer, we swam all day, every day in the town pool. Now I won’t do either (I have definitely become a germ-a-phobe). Because, like Sue said – mouths all over the spout! – and, as an adult, I became more aware and began wondering things like “How does that fountain get cleaned? Does the spout get wiped down with the same cleaning rag as was used on the wall, floor, toilet?”. And, public pools – gag, don’t get me started. Plus, nowadays, they have so much chlorine in them that my skin would peel off.
So, I do carry a water bottle (stainless steel) with me, I don’t fill it up at a water fountain but, if necessary, I will fill it up at the sink or will use the water option on the soda machine dispenser or those upside down 5 gallon water bottle dispensers (which seem to have replaced water fountains?).


Kristy July 17, 2014 at 3:25 am

I fill my water bottle up from the fountain while I’m at work. It’s free and it’s cold. The downside of this is that complete strangers feel the need to comment to me how gross they think it is.


Sloan July 17, 2014 at 3:34 am

If I’m out running errands, I usually don’t take anything to drink, but if I don’t think about it, I don’t get thirsty. There really aren’t that many errands that I run and most of them are close to my house. Now I’m going to have to keep an eye out for water fountains, though!


DD July 17, 2014 at 4:05 am

We don’t have public drinking fountains in Germany, where I live. That used to bother me, after growing up in Portland, but I’ve become used to it now.
Katy, I would love to have a meet-up of you & Nonconsumer fans in Portland this summer (after Aug. 15). Any chance of that happening? Pretty please? I could sprinkle one cent pieces on the park grass to make it interesting for y’all…


Cyndi July 17, 2014 at 6:44 am

I’d be up for meeting. No sprinkling of money required 🙂


Katy July 17, 2014 at 8:22 am

I was actually thinking of making that happen. Let me figure out a date.



Dd July 18, 2014 at 10:27 pm

That would be great!


Paula in the UP July 17, 2014 at 4:15 am

I would say most places I go have drinking fountains. But I am seldom without my 230z (Packer)cup with lid and straw filled with ice and water. I still visit drinking fountains when I see them get a drink or fill my cup if it’s getting low. I must be the opposite of a camel because I am always sipping on water.


Gail July 17, 2014 at 4:16 am

I’m a total germ freak, so I have a real hard time using drinking fountains unless I am very thirsty, or I need to take medication.

The ones at my local mall are also between two bathrooms and I find that vile. They need to put them away from the stink!!


Katy July 17, 2014 at 8:28 am

Drinking fountains are always next to bathrooms because they can share the plumbing lines.



erin @ dfmi designs July 17, 2014 at 4:17 am

I’m always carrying a water bottle. Which is usually a bottle I’ve reused repeatedly after the original beverage was gone. I do prefer glass bottles (the cold seems to stay crisper) but they do seem harder and harder to come by.


dusty July 17, 2014 at 4:44 am

I always carry a water bottle with me in a small cooler. You’d be surprised how many people have commented on what a good idea that is. If I stop somewhere to eat and have leftovers, into the cooler they go. I really can’t remember the last time I saw a water fountain. Carrying the water bottle makes me think of what George Carlin had to say about it, something like “why the hell are we all so thirsty”.


marieann July 17, 2014 at 4:53 am

I have often wondered where this water bottle craze came from.
Folk used to go about their business without worrying about finding something to drink, unless of course you were going to be out in the wilderness for hours.
I wonder if it started when the “everyone needs to drink 8 glasses of water a day” meme started, and this of course has no basis in fact. Being a wee bit cynical I think it may have been conjured by the bottled water companies.
I think we are in a vicious cycle now, with the rise in bottled water there are less drinking fountains around, and so one may have to bring their own source of water.
I have no problem using drinking fountains if I need a drink. I worry less about germs than about drinking out of plastic bottles. Sometimes I bring my water bottle with me, depends how long I will be out.
Katy, I will have to emulate you and try to memorize where the water fountains are


Katy July 17, 2014 at 8:29 am

Good point. We KNOW about the hazards of drinking out of plastic containers, but the hazard of drinking from drinking fountains is imagined.



Karen July 18, 2014 at 12:35 pm

I have heard how soda fountain dispensers are so filthy (never cleaned so mold build up) as a previous person stated they got their water from there. I would much rather drink from a water fountain. In fact, I did so today after reading this blog yesterday. I did look at the spout and there was a plastic piece on it, making it hard for someone to put their mouth on the piece. I wondered if who ever designed it thought of this.


Dawn July 18, 2014 at 8:02 pm

People with immune problems are warned not to use soda dispensers or water coolers. Water from a tap is the best bet for cleanliness.


Elaine in Ark July 21, 2014 at 5:59 am

The only bottled water I have in my house is on my emergency shelf. We have good tasting water from the tap, so that’s what I drink.

I don’t memorize where the drinking fountains are as much as where the public restrooms are. Ahh, the joys of getting older…


Michelle Marie July 17, 2014 at 5:28 am

I think you may have stumbled on a new topic for regular/occasional posting, along the lines of targeted savings banks: water fountains you have encountered! I think another good topic for a blog entry would be the history of water fountains and an investigation into the possibility for or fear of picking up germs from various fountains. Just a thought….
Have a great day!
Michelle Marie


Ellie July 17, 2014 at 5:57 am

I noticed a 3rd faucet on the first image. I guess it’s to fill up a water bottle. Never have I seen one before. That’s fantastic.


Lesley July 17, 2014 at 6:26 am

Germophobe here: drinking fountains = NO WAY. Refillable water bottle for the win! I wish more had a water bottle refill faucet.


JD July 17, 2014 at 7:05 am

When I was young and my family used to go shopping for the day, such as for school shoes or Christmas shopping, we always used the water fountains and had their locations and attributes memorized. This one had the coldest water, this one spurted if you weren’t careful, etc. I still use water fountains, and they are still around, but I’ve realized we don’t see them anymore because we don’t look for them anymore — we have water in our car or hand. My daughter went to Grad Night at Disney World, bought one bottle of water, and refilled it from water fountains the rest of the night. She spent a big two bucks on beverages all night long, because Disney World has fountains everywhere — if you look for them.


Diane C July 17, 2014 at 7:07 am

I strongly suspect that there are far fewer germs in drinking fountains than say, public toilets at the airport or worse, on an airplane. I’ve always wondered if germophobes are actually weakening their immune systems by avoiding “nasty” germs. Thanks for another insightful post, Katy.


Elaine in Ark July 21, 2014 at 6:03 am

If your immune system (which is mostly in your intestines) is healthy, that takes care of the nasty stuff we might ingest. I swallowed a small bug yesterday. I didn’t mean to, but it happens.


Karen July 17, 2014 at 9:30 am

I am not a fan of water fountains, though I will use them for extreme thirst. We rarely leave the house without water bottles anyway.
I guess I have seen way too many fountains with questionable substances blocking the drain. Just bleck.


Katy July 17, 2014 at 9:44 am

I wouldn’t use one of those, but that’s not really the case at New Season’s or the library. And you can’t be a true Portlander without using the Benson Bubblers!


Kayleigh July 17, 2014 at 9:42 am

No way I would ever use a public water fountain. I have seen high school boys and men too after playing sports spit up some disgusting mucus/phlegm into them and in college I saw a drunk guy use one as a urinal. Nope. I prefer carrying my own or if I really am dying of thirst I’ll buy a bottle of water. Men do disgusting things into public water fountains. Gross and very nasty. You are braver than I am!!


Carolyn July 17, 2014 at 10:49 am

I prefer my own water from home (reverse osmosis well water), but am happy to sip from fountains too. When I remember, I freeze half for a super cold drink. I find that if I have my bottle of water with me and some sort of snack, I am less likely to pop into a coffee shop or restaurant and wait until I get home.


cathy July 17, 2014 at 11:04 am

Reusable stainless water bottle all the way (though I will use a drinking fountain if I’ve driven somewhere and left my water bottle in the car). Our water bottles get filled up multiple times each day. Maybe it’s a temperature thing? I live where it’s VERY dry and hot. In summer, especially, no one leaves home without a reusable water bottle. And, like Dusty, I often take a cooler with me. I throw one or two of those freezer gel packs in to keep drinks/snacks/groceries cold.


Gladys (The Pinay Mom) July 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

We usually bring water bottles with us and put in a small cooler when we go somewhere.We barely use water fountains.


Kimberly in So Cal July 17, 2014 at 2:42 pm

We do both. For most errands I’ll just use a drinking fountain if I get thirsty; especially if I am walking or biking to do the errands. If it’s hot I’ll carry a bottle, and I carry one in the car if I am doing hours and hours of errands.

We take water with us most other places; the park (most of our local parks don’t have working drinking fountains), bike races, bowling, the movies ($1 day), the beach, the pool, etc. On cold days we’ll make tea and take it in a thermos to the park or to bike races. I can’t recall the last time I paid for a beverage while we were out; DH occasionally buys a coffee while we are traveling but I don’t have the coffee habit so my water bottle serves me fine.

P.S. For the Disney fans, any walk up restaurant in a Disney park will be glad to give you a free cup of ice water, even if you aren’t ordering food. I always just used the drinking fountains, but on one particularly hot day I was feeling quite ill so I asked for a cup of ice water and it was gladly given. Before that I’d only asked for free water when ordering food. Unfortunately the drinking fountains at most Disney parks aren’t refrigerated, and on that day I just couldn’t cool down.


Christine July 17, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I do not use water fountains, but I’ll admit that I see fewer of them around in the Northeast. I usually carry stainless steel water bottles for myself and the kids, which can be quite cumbersome. At home I know that the water is filtered, whereas public water sources often have a funny taste. My workplace had Caution tape on all of the fountains while construction was ongoing–which was 2+ years. Now the tape has been removed, but I am still wary of using them. My coworker swears that the water causes her migraines, so she brings jugs of water for the workday, as do I. I guess I am not very confident about our water quality!


Molly July 17, 2014 at 4:23 pm

I really enjoyed all the water fountain pictures in this post. I carry my own water bottle because I like my home tap water, and I like it room temperature, and I like to take big gulps.


Lane July 18, 2014 at 11:00 am

I drink from water fountains all the time, but I agree that the little sips I have to take because of the icy water are no where near as satisfying as chugging a big room-temperature glassful.


Linda July 17, 2014 at 4:54 pm

I would have never guessed that drinking fountains would be such a hot topic. I’m in the habit of carrying my own refillable water bottle, but if I don’t have it with me for some reason I will use a public fountain. (although all the messages from germaphobes do give me pause)


Allison July 17, 2014 at 9:17 pm

I would never bother to carry a water bottle, because anywhere I’m likely to go in our urban area will have a drinking fountain (I do bring a bottle on hikes, or to the beach.) My kids on the other hand think that they MUST have a bottle of water at all times or they will die. Honestly, we go on a ten minute car ride and at least half the time I hear “Mom, did you bring water?”

No honey, I did not bring water for this ten minute car ride from our home to another building that will have freely available water. And since this conversation has taken two minutes, now the water is only eight minutes away. As is the end of the complaining about the lack of water in the car.

Do my children ever think to pack their own water? Of course not.


K D July 18, 2014 at 4:45 am

Mostly I go out without water (while I am out and about) and I rarely use drinking fountains. If I know I’ll be out a long time I’ll bring a reuseable bottle with me. I too somehow survived the 60s and 70s without having water with me at all times.


Barb @ 1SentenceDiary July 18, 2014 at 5:39 am

Who knew that water fountains would be such a hot topic?! I *love* this group.

I have noticed that the water fountains at the airports are starting to have a special spot to fill your water bottle, which I love. Since you can’t take water through the security point, you can bring an empty water bottle and simply refill it after you get through security. I’m starting to see those water bottle spigots at colleges and other spots as well.


Katy July 18, 2014 at 7:12 am

Yes, I see those kind of fill-your-bottle spigots here in Portland as well.


kris July 18, 2014 at 8:41 am

I swear the water fountain at our church has the best tasting (for a water fountain) water. Water Fountains don’t bother me (germ-wise), if I don’t have a tissue to push the thingy with, I just bend my knuckles and push with those and of course, don’t put your mouth on anything.

I’m more skeeved out that the bathrooms don’t have doors. I don’t think I’ve seen a public facility that didn’t have main doors into the restrooms.


MW July 18, 2014 at 11:40 am

Generally I don’t carry bottled water, but if it is a hot day and I’m taking the bus I do. I’ve gotten stuck on too many buses that have over heated and had to walk a much longer distance home. One near-faint and I started carrying a bottle. I am also on the look-out for fountains. I hate paying $2+ for bottled water in a plastic bottle.


Jeanine July 18, 2014 at 1:08 pm

I only use the fountain at work, because I am the one who cleans it!!!

It’s behind a locked door ( I work in a county building that uses inmates for maintenance, and they can only go in when their lead is with them….long story, but excellent reasons)

So when they do use the facilities, I make sure the fountain is cleaned.


Kim from Philadelphia July 18, 2014 at 5:11 pm

Oh, I LOVE the bubblers! Both the concept snd design; thanks for sharing.

I do think it’s funny how we have become a culture of “water bottle transporters” it makes sense if the weather is very hot and you are frail/ill/pregnant/toddlers. Other than that… give me a break!
I love water and it’s my drink if choice, but seeing adults constantly sipping from their bottles just makes me laugh!

I don’t often comment; just want to mention how much I enjoy your blog and your perspective!


Constance July 19, 2014 at 1:30 pm

my hubs and i were just talking about this. it was water fountains or the hose


Emily N. July 19, 2014 at 5:02 pm

At the retail store I worked at for a couple of years none of the employees would use the water fountain. Someone once caught a customer urinating in the fountain and all the employees avoided it like the plague for years afterward.

That said, I don’t mind using a drinking fountain in a pinch.


Practical Parsimony July 20, 2014 at 12:20 am

Sometimes, I will use a water fountain; sometimes, I just cannot bear to get near it with my mouth. I do carry water most of the time. If I don’t, there is a grocery store that opens the 24 packs of water and sells them, chilled, for a quarter. That beats almost $2 for Dasani, the absolute best-tasting water.

I have found that as I get older, I really need to drink water more often, but not necessarily more water. I am taking a medication that makes my mouth so dry that the back of my tongue sticks to my soft palate. So, water makes me more comfortable. The heat drains me more now than when I was young.

Sometimes, I am thirsty, not hungry. Often I am thirsty, not exhausted from exertion. When we were little and no ac in the car, we just toughed it out. I can remember sometimes on a long trip a big bottle of water that all five of us kids drank from. Gross.

I have many water bottles that supposedly have no BPA and a few that are metal. My favorite bottle is a set of Tupperware bottle that have a cap for the bottle and a little cap to open to drink, sort of like an adult sippy cup. No, I did not purchase them. They were free and new.

If I am in the car and thirsty, there are usually several bottles of all sorts with water in them. There is no telling how long they have been there, but I am too thirsty to care.


Jennifer July 20, 2014 at 6:32 am

Water fountains don’t really gross me out, but since they tend to be out of the way I never think about them (unless I happen to go to the bathroom.) It is a great idea to carry water while you’re out and about. I never think to, but often get thirsty while I’m out, which leads to me stopping to grab a drink. If I had a water bottle with me, though, I could probably save some money and drink something healthier! I must start this habit.


Elaine in Ark July 21, 2014 at 5:51 am

I grew up in Racine, Wisconsin in the 50’s and 60’s, and it seemed like there was a bubbler every 6 blocks or so. We would walk from our house to downtown and the library (we savee the bus money for a soda), and just when we would get really thirsty, there would be a bubbler. The water was always cold (it’s right next to Lake Michigan, and the temp below grade was a constant cool). It was sad when the city started removing them. Flash forward to the latest downtown revival, and there are bubblers as well as benches, flowers, and fancy lamp posts all over the place.

I take my water bottle with me now and refill it from the water coolers where ever I am.


Jan July 31, 2014 at 9:58 am

I was a Microbiology major. In one of our lab classes we cultured a drinking fountain in our building. I will never drink out of a water fountain again.


Lynda D. January 13, 2015 at 9:21 am

Thanks for the info! Any data on soda fountain dispensers (the water option)?


Betty Winslow January 12, 2015 at 8:03 am

I almost always take water with me whenever I go out. It keeps me from buying something if I get thirsty and I always have it to take my meds (hard to do at a water fountain). We do still have water fountains around, but I seldom use them, except for the ones at work that I know are kept clean. When my husband and I go on trips, we freeze water in bottles beforehand, fill them the rest of the way, and put them in a small cooler behind the seats. Saves a lot of money on drinks and also time, since we no longer have to stop if we get thirsty. I do reuse plastic water bottles for that, but recently got a stainless steel bottle for everyday use.


Cheryl Mozdrech April 2, 2015 at 10:58 am

Does anyone know if a condomium complex has a pool, are they required to have a drinking fountain? If so, who would I look to for questions concerning that issue?


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