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Frequently asked questions

Frequently asked questions about the 50 Fountains Challenge.

What’s the 50 Fountains Challenge?

Sustain and City to Sea have joined forces with organisations around the UK to encourage local areas to be the first to meet this challenge, and: 

  • to reach the target of 50 working public fountains  
  • to map their existing drinking fountains on the Refill app and
  • install new public drinking fountains to reach the target.  


How do you define a working public drinking fountain?

It should be in working order and publicly accessible for most of the day where people do not have to pay to enter. This can include public buildings (e.g. council offices, libraries), parks, train, tube & bus stations, high streets or any other suitable locations that meet the main criteria. These should be recognisable as a drinking fountain, as opposed to a tap or refill point. Oh, and they need to work!

We are not including schools in this target, as most (although shockingly not all) schools have fountains, and they are only accessible to children. We encourage all areas to have multiple working fountains in all schools, but they cannot be included in the target of the 50 or on the Refill app. We’d love to see more fountains installed in public areas outside schools, and along children's commute routes.


What do you define as a local area?

When you register, we ask which local area you wish to cover. As local authorities are one of the major players in installing (and crucially maintaining) fountains, our definition of a local area mirrors the authority boundaries. This is also roughly the catchment where we expect 50 fountains to be an appropriate target. If you are working to a different geography, just let us know. If we have interest from overlapping areas, we’ll ask you if you'd like to join forces. 


Do I have the authority to speak for my local area?

You don’t need permission to save the planet. Anyone willing to see more fountains installed in their local area has authority in our eyes. We only ask that you get a group together to maximise your chance of success.


I’m from a community group, local business or public sector organisation - what can I do?

We recommend forming a partnership as the most effective approach to this. There will certainly be multiple local organisations and individuals for whom this work is relevant. Whether it’s to help reduce plastics (your area may have a local Refill group, or Friends of the Earth group, and will certainly have a Council waste and parks department); reduce child obesity (your area might have a SUGAR SMART campaign, or your Council public health team); or to improve the food system locally (your area might have a food partnership), we would recommend you approach these groups to join forces to maximise the success of widespread fountain installation.


Can individuals take the challenge?

Not on their own – but they can encourage organisations in their local area to take the lead and sign up to the challenge.  And if your local area has already signed up to the challenge, we’d love to put you in contact with the local lead to see if you can help.

Either way please go on social media and use the hashtag #50fountainchallenge to promote this challenge and encourage your local authority to get involved.


Where can I find out how many fountains there are in my area?

A good starting point is to check the free Refill app and see how many fountains have been added to the map in your area. You can also contact your council parks team for info on fountains on public land. Then you can mobilise your group members and willing volunteers to local any working fountains in other areas such as transport hubs and shopping centres. Make sure to add any that you find in your research to the app, and help thousands of app users find their next refill.


How long do areas have to reach their target, and who checks if we don't?

Every local area is starting from a different place in terms of existing provision and local support from landowners. We are asking all areas to pledge to reach 50, and to have a three year interim target (e.g. 15 new fountains) as part of it. We anticipate that a partnership with a concerted plan should be able to reach 50 fountains well within the next five to ten years, and hopefully a lot sooner if they already have some installed. Everyone will be able to see if an area has met its pledge, as the fountains will be listed on the Refill app. And we will be sure to celebrate your success along the way.


What types of fountains do you recommend installing?

Check our Drinking Water Fountains guide for more information on how to choose your fountain locations and the best fountains to meet your needs. City to Sea product partners MIW Water Cooler Experts offer a range of indoor and outdoor options and will donate 10% of each sale to the Refill campaign, meaning investment in fountains can do even more to help spread the Refill revolution.


Have any local area already done this?

Yes – almost! Some local areas like Hillingdon installed 35 new fountains in one summer alone (2018). As we reach out to local areas who have historically had many fountains, we expect to be announcing others who are close to or exceeding 50 fountains.


Why are you encouraging more drinking fountains?

The problem of waste plastic has been globally recognised as one of the most pressing environmental issues. Drinks bottles have been identified as one of the most common pieces of ocean plastic. UK adults use around 150 bottles each every year. Using refillable drinks bottles will not solve the plastic problem alone, but there’s no denying the impact it could make if we all got on board. But the infrastructure needs to be there to support that move.

And it isn’t just the environment that benefits, as fountains provide an easy alternative to sugary drinks as well. With children consuming three times the amount of recommended sugar, and almost a quarter of sugar consumed by teenagers coming from sugary drinks, a new wave of drinking fountains particularly in child-friendly locations could play a useful role in tackling the child obesity crisis.  

The water fountains will provide plastic-free, on-the-go healthy hydration. The aims are to:

  • Make the alternatives so easy, convenient, prevalent and accessible to the general public across the UK that is removes the ‘convenience’ factor of purchasing plastic bottled water or sugary drinks.
  • Meet public demand and remove the single biggest barrier to more people switching to refill.
  • Normalise the culture of refilling by providing the infrastructure to do so across the UK (in time, this will reduce impulse purchases of sugary drinks and make the behaviour of consuming plastic water socially unacceptable).


Are you funding the fountains?

Not yet, although we are always looking for funding partners. There is no one organisation that funds, installs, or maintains fountains. Whilst this may sound complicated, it means there are multiple ways and places to seek support for fountains. We recommend you download the Drinking Water Fountains guide for tips on funding sources. If any new funding sources become available – those areas who have signed up to the challenge will be the first to know.


Why stop at 50? Shouldn’t we be more ambitious?

Absolutely – please be our guest and we’ll happily encourage a race to the top. Maybe your area could be the first to 100? or 200?! If we want to reduce the use of plastic bottles or consumption of sugary drinks, then tap water needs to be the most convenient option.

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