The BEST Water Fountain on Campus

We all know that feeling: you turn the rusty handle, lean in, and take a sip of warm, lead-flavored water from a fountain in the Tory building. Glancing down as you gather the courage to swallow, you notice a single instant noodle nestled in the drain. Your only thought:


We at SustainSU are here to make sure you never make that mistake again. This week, we’ve collected opinions from a variety of students to determine the best drinking fountain on campus. We conclude by discussing the pros/cons of those “green” bottle refill stations you can find around campus.

water fountain

Q: What is the best drinking fountain on campus?

Criteria: temperature, taste, cleanliness, smooth vs. bubbly

Kaelin, 2nd year BSc planning: “SUB basement. Worst are the 3rd floor Tory ones that taste like warm lead.”

Ryan, 2nd year Nursing: “The one in SUB by Teapsy. It’s central, has a rehydration station, and good water pressure.”

Timothy, 2nd year Engineering: “That one water bottle refill station in ETLC. Cold, tastes fresh, no bubbles. On the 2nd floor– the ground floor ones are horrific.”

Manuela, 2nd year Sociology: “Van Vliet definitely has the good ones.”

Sienna, 1st year Bsc Kinesiology: “Van Vliet.”

Cody, 1st year Kinesiology: “Van Vliet.”

Daphny, 2nd year BCommerce: “The Van Vliet one.”

Cole, 2nd year Business: “Van Vliet, right outside the change rooms.”

Keira, 2nd year Anthropology: “I don’t use water fountains that much…I’ve heard the ones near the gym are good.”

Ju Hee, Elementary Ed. exchange: “Van Vliet gym?? Lol since we work out hard and then drink water, it tastes the best!”

Stephanie, 2nd year Linguistics: “Outside Rutherford North, behind the glass display with the typewriter. Icy goodness.”

Freya, 2nd year Sociology: “The one hidden outside Rutherford N, zesty fresh.”

Abhi, 2nd year Business: “The one in Cameron. The main one.”

Cole, 2nd year general sciences: “I haven’t used a water fountain on campus. Oh wait, I have used one…” 🐥

Julia, 2nd year Bioscience: “I don’t have a favorite, but I have used the one in CAB the most…There is a rumor that the one in Chem is the best tasting though.”

Abigail, 2nd year Design: “The one in CAB of course! By the Tim Hortons. Nice chilled water.”

Lexi, 2nd year English: “Maybe the Business basement one? I think I tried that one and I don’t remember being disgusted. Or maybe it was Tory basement. Idk.”

The Verdict

van vliet.jpg

Van Vliet sweeps the competition! With 40% of the votes, we can conclude that UAlberta kids sure like to work out. Interestingly, most of the water fountains in Van Vliet are the newfangled “Bottle Refill Stations” (EZH20s), which purport to reduce plastic bottle use and filter excess lead.

Additionally, somehow 100% of respondents were 1st or 2nd year students…leaving us with the question of where 3rd and 4th years get their water…if they even drink water at all… 😱😱

The EZH20:

You may have noticed these nifty Elkay “EZH20” Bottle Refill Stations, which let you refill your water bottle without holding your wrist at a nasty angle. We wanted to find out just how sustainable these “green” water fountains really are.

Pros of the EZH20:

  • Counts how many plastic bottles we’ve saved*
  • Saves energy by powering down refridgeration overnight
  • Made from GreenSpec certified materials
  • Filters more lead out of water, according to the NSF/ANSI 53 certification
  • Display shows when filter needs replacing**


According to Elkay, the EZH20 is a “fountain of ingenuity.” It’s definitely  impressive when it shows we’ve kept like 8976 plastic bottles from going to the landfill…but keep in mind that using a water fountain doesn’t literally erase waste, it just encourages using reusable bottles.

However, the GreenSpec certification is quite impressive– GreenSpec sells only sustainable construction products which have been assessed on 14 criteria, including a complete Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of the impact of the product from manufacture to distribution, to degradation.

Further, the EZH20 can be set to turn off its refrigeration function during hours where the building is less busy. And, judging by taste, it does seem to filter out the lead taste better.

Cons of EZH20:

  • *Doesn’t literally save plastic bottles– just counts how many we hypothetically avoided using.
  • **Freaky to use when filter status is red??


Van Vliet, with its shiny EZH20s, is the campus go-to for hydration. To read Elkay’s take on the sustainability of their own model versus other water fountains, see their Energy Efficiency Comparison Chart. America’s sustainable trade magazine, Green Building & Design (gb&d), also interviews Elkay’s product manager Ellen Sadjak about the business model, design, and world-wide reception of the EZH20s.

The jury’s out on whether Bottle Refill Stations truly are “fountains of ingenuity,” but the people have spoken.

Freya H-T
Co-Leader of the Blog Team


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