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A drinking fountain, also called a water fountain or bubbler, is a fountain designed to provide drinking water. It consists of a basin with either continuously running water or a tap. The drinker bends down to the stream of water and swallows water directly from the stream. Modern indoor drinking fountains may incorporate filters to remove impurities from the water and chillers to reduce its temperature. Water fountains are usually found in public places, like schools, rest areas, libraries, and grocery stores. Many jurisdictions require water fountains to be wheelchair accessible (by sticking out horizontally from the wall), and to include an additional unit of a lower height for children and short adults. The design that this replaced often had one spout atop a refrigeration unit.
Use of the words bubbler, water fountain, and drinking fountain vary across regional dialects of English.
In mid-19th century London, water provision was from nine private water companies with geographic monopolies. Water was generally inadequate for the rapidly growing population and was often contaminated. Legislation in the mid nineteenth century gradually improved the situation; the Metropolitan Commission of Sewers was formed, water filtration was made compulsory, and water intakes on the Thames were forced to be moved above the sewage outlets. In this context, the public drinking fountain movement began, initially in Liverpool where the local government was granted the ability to buy out the private water companies in 1847. It built the first public baths and then encouraged philanthropic public drinking water fountains.
In London, Metropolitan Free Drinking Fountain Association was established by the Member of Parliament Samuel Gurney, and the barrister Edward Thomas Wakefield in 1859 with the requirement "That no fountain be erected or promoted by the Association which shall not be so constructed as to ensure by filters, or other suitable means, the perfect purity and coldness of the water." The first fountain was built on Holborn Hill on the railings of the church of St Sepulchre-without-Newgate on Snow Hill, paid for by Samuel Gurney, and opened on 21 April 1859.
The fountain became immediately popular, used by 7,000 people a day. In the next six years 85 fountains were built, with much of the funding coming directly from the association (Samuel Gurney). The movement soon became associated with the temperance movement as they provided a substitute for alcohol and were purposely positioned outside public houses.
Until the last few years London was ill-provided with public drinking fountains...This matter is now well looked after by the Metropolitan Drinking Fountain and Cattle Trough Association, which has erected and is now maintaining nearly 800 fountains and troughs, at which an enormous quantity of water is consumed daily. It is estimated that 300,000 people take advantage of the fountains on a summer’s day...
In the United States, drinking fountains were built from 1889 by the then-small Kohler Water Works (now Kohler Company) in Kohler, Wisconsin, a company already established as a faucet producer. The original 'Bubbler' shot water one inch straight into the air, creating a bubbling texture, and the excess water ran back down over the sides of the nozzle. Several years later the Bubbler adopted the more sanitary arc projection, which also allowed the user to drink more easily from it. At the start of the 20th century, it was discovered that the original vertical design was related to the spread of many contagious diseases.
In recent studies, it has been found that many water fountains have been contaminated with pathogens such as bacteria. Due to cases in the past where children have fallen ill due to coliform bacteria poisoning, many governments have placed strict regulations on drinking fountain designs. The vertical spout design is now illegal in most United States jurisdictions. Some governments even require water spouts to be as long as four inches to meet health standards. It is also recommended for young children to allow water fountains to run before drinking, as the water may also be contaminated with lead. This is especially common in older buildings with obsolete plumbing.
The term bubbler is a genericized trademark used in some regional dialects of the United States and in Australia. A survey of US dialects undertaken between 2002 and 2004 found the word bubbler commonly used in southern and eastern Wisconsin and in Rhode Island and eastern Massachusetts. The phrase drinking fountain was common in the rest of the inland north and in the west, while water fountain dominated other parts of the country.
The term bubbler is sometimes used in the Portland, Oregon region where in the late 1800s former Wisconsin resident Simon Benson installed 20 fountains, which are now known in the Portland area as "Benson Bubblers".
- Philip Davies. Troughs and Drinking Fountains. ISBN 0-7011-3369-4.
- Victorian fountains
- Dickens, Charles, Jr. (1879). "Drinking Fountains". Dickens's Dictionary of London. Retrieved 2007-08-22.
- "Is it Safe to Drink from Public Drinking Water Fountains?". aquasana. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- "Fact Sheet: Drinking Water in Schools". The Green Squad. Retrieved 27 June 2013.
- Christensen, Sean (2 December 1994). "LINGUIST List Sum: Use of bubbler as a synonym for drinking fountain". Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- "Bubbler map". 2004. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
- Zeb Larson. "Benson Bubblers". The Oregon Encyclopedia. Retrieved August 11, 2013.
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