Opinion | The best and worst of water fountains on campus

By Jessica Snyder, Senior Staff Writer

Something I pride myself in is drinking a lot of water. I started trying to drink three bottles of water a day in high school after noticing that I had fewer headaches and more hydrated skin when I did.

Access to clean water is essential to life and, thankfully, I think Pitt does a very good job of doing that in a sustainable manner. But there is no denying that some water fountains on campus are better than others.

When it comes to ranking these water fountains, I’m mainly going off of their bottle-filling abilities.

Through my observations, I have come to find that the Elkay ezH2O Bottle Filling Station is truly a game changer and these wonderful pieces of equipment can be found in most buildings on campus. Still, there are some disparities among them.

For one, their sensors can sometimes function unpredictably. The water is supposed to shut off after 20 seconds, but differences in water bottles contribute greatly to the variability of whether the bottle is completely filled or registered by the sensor at all.

This brings me to the issue of water pressure. For whatever reason, some bottle filling stations on campus have stronger water pressure than others. This might not seem like a big issue, but it makes all the difference when it comes to the 20-second shut off time. In cases of extreme variation, your water bottle may end up underfilled or overfilled.

The water’s temperature and taste is also important in the bottle-filling experience. There are certain places on campus, namely the Cathedral of Learning, where the water is warm and seems to just not taste right. Fortunately, the majority of stations at Pitt provide cold and refreshing water.

As a first-year, I absolutely adored the bottle filling station on my floor in Litchfield Tower A. It was nothing special, but its location, for me, was unbeatable. Bottle filling stations in residence halls are definitely the most convenient of all the stations on campus, even if they are just average.

The bottle filling station on the ground floor of Hillman is probably the best one on campus. In fact, all of the stations in the library are great. The water is always cold, there is rarely ever a line and it’s a great place for a study break that keeps you hydrated. The ground floor station is the most notable due to its water pressure — it fills water bottles up quickly, so you have to be attentive to make sure your water bottle doesn’t overflow.

The station at Baierl Student Recreation Center in the Petersen Events Center is good, but it has some drawbacks. When you’re at the gym, this fountain provides a reliable source of cold water that is easy to drink. Sometimes there is a line which can become quite annoying, but the station is probably used more than all the others on campus. For this reason, the LED filter indicator is often yellow. While the water is still drinkable, I think most people would prefer the green filter indicator.

The fountains in Benedum Hall are also average, but I honestly expected better. Benedum is where most classes and research for the Swanson School of Engineering are held. As a liberal arts major visiting this hall for the sole purpose of writing this article, I couldn’t help but think of all of the ways a water fountain could be engineered. The ones in the building weren’t bad by any means, I was just surprised to see normal water fountains and a lack of bottle-filling stations.

The worst water fountains are in the Cathedral of Learning. This is particularly a shame for me, since it’s where all of my classes are, making trips to the good water fountains in Hillman worthwhile, if not necessary. The water is rarely cold — the warm temperature gives it a seemingly metallic taste.

All of these water fountains give us the same thing in different ways. Being a student on campus for a couple of years exposes us to the minute disparities between things like water fountains. Water fountains become routine if you drink a lot of water, and soon enough you will have created your own water fountain hierarchy at Pitt like me.

With that being said, there are probably many other water fountains at Pitt that I haven’t encountered that are better or worse than the ones I have mentioned. But don’t let anyone tell you that they’re all the same.

Jessica Snyder primarily writes about controversy in art and politics. Write to her at [email protected].