Canadian cities launch hydrant drinking fountain projects as heat records are broken worldwide

Ottawa hydrant fountain
In Ottawa, city councillors said the first season of the hydrant fountain program in 2022 was appreciated by residents, tourists and even their pets. Photo Credit: City of Ottawa

The Alberta City of Lethbridge and Waterloo, Ontario are joining the City of Ottawa, this summer in offering 24/7 hydrant hookups to beat the heat with seasonal drinking water stations.

While the pilot projects in Lethbridge and Waterloo are just getting off the ground in locations across the cities, Ottawa’s hydrant fountain program has returned due to popular demand following a successful launch last summer.

The hydrant fountains are starting to arrive as temperatures set heat records worldwide. The average worldwide temperature last week reached 17.23°C (63.01°F), with records already broken or tied three times during the week. The previous record for average daily temperature was in mid-August 2016. 

Lethbridge invested $15,000 in its hydrant fountain pilot. The stations were designed and manufactured by staff at the city’s water treatment plant. Water bottle filling stations have been installed at Galt Gardens, Henderson Lake Park, Nicholas Sheran Park, and Legacy Park.

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Photo Credit: City of Lethbridge

“Access to drinking water is important to the general population, but also, it’s perhaps most important to the vulnerable members of our community,” explained Lethbridge City Councillor Nick Paladino, who spearheaded the initiative. “I look forward to seeing how the pilot progresses through the summer and how the community uses them.”

In Ottawa, city councillors said the first season of the hydrant fountain program was appreciated by residents, tourists and even their pets. In 2023, the city even included the option for residents to request new hydrant fountain locations. 

The designs of the hydrant fountains vary between the three cities. While the Ottawa and Waterloo hydrant fountains offer a water bottle filling element to the fountain setup, as a well as a pet-level drinking component, the Lethbridge fountains are more basic, offering a simple low-level nozzle for refills.

“Take a sip, fill your bottle, or offer your pet a drink,” states a poster on the Waterloo fountains.

Waterloo officials noted that local fire officials were consulted on the project to ensure that the fountain does not interfere with the normal use of the fire hydrant.

Also in Ontario, one City of Cambridge councillor recently put forth a motion to bring back public drinking water fountains after they were removed around 2006 due to the Walkerton E. coli contamination crisis. The councillor said one fountain could cost in the neighbourhood of $15,000, and the idea must take into account the cost of potential vandalism. Council also discussed the possibility that the fountains could be designed as art projects.

The concept of bringing back water fountains is also before Hamilton City Council.

This article appears in ES&E Magazine’s August 2023 issue:

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