The hot topic these days at Scripps College trustee meetings is not the budget or recent staff hires, but water fountains.
“After each meeting with the trustees, the end discussion has always been how great these fountains are,” said Scripps Director of Facilities Niel Errickson, referring to the new sustainable and automatic-filling Elkay EZH2O water fountains that have been installed in three Scripps residence halls over the last two years. The fountains have been so successful that the school is considering replacing all old water fountains in need of repair with the Elkay fountains.
“It was such a great success that rather than waste the money to repair [the old fountains], we’re going to replace them with this new style,” Errickson said.
The EZH2O fountains are more energy efficient because the compressor that chills the water uses less electricity. The fountains also feature an infrared sensor that allows the user to fill his or her bottle without it touching the fountainhead, eliminating contamination and, the college hopes, encouraging students to use reusable water bottles because it makes the refilling process faster and easier. They also include a ticker that tracks how many disposable bottles the fountains are saving from landfills with every use, reminding students to acknowledge their impact on the broader environment.
Figures from Errickson showed that the fountains have been tremendously popular among students, with a total of 72,186 half liters of water drunk between the six fountains that have been installed in Scripps’s Clark, Routt, and Toll residence halls over the last two years.
“The water tastes better than the other drinking fountains because it doesn’t taste like metal,” Routt Hall Residence Advisor Julia Berryman SC ’12 said. “Also, it’s more convenient because I don’t have to use my own Brita filter anymore.”
Although the Elkay fountains go for a hefty price of $3,000 each, double the cost of the older fountains, Errickson said the accumulated costs of repairing the old fountains made the Elkay models a worthy investment. He said the older water fountains were becoming increasingly difficult and expensive to maintain because replacement parts are not as widely available as they used to be.
“It may not make it depending on the needs of the rest of the campus, but we’re looking forward to change out the rest of the fountains,” said Errickson, who included Elkay fountain replacements for all existing indoor fountains at Scripps in this year’s Facilities Action Plan, an estimate of annual expenses.
The funds for the fountains that have already been installed came from Scripps’s Capital Projects fund, which supports improvement projects that each school department adds to a “wish list” throughout the school year. The Facilities Department was able to move forward with the initial six installations because it already had the funds as part of its operating budget.
The fountains in Clark and Toll are also part of a greater remodeling project for the north residence halls first proposed by former Scripps Associated Students (SAS) President India Mullady SC ’11.
“She wanted to get rid of the institutional look of the north wing of Clark and Toll and make it more homey,” Errickson said. “[The] buildings were breaking down.” Along with the new drinking fountains, this remodeling project has also seen the installment of new sinks, precast columns, and windows for Clark and Toll, Scripps’s two oldest residence halls.
Across Ninth Street, Claremont McKenna College (CMC) is following Scripps’s lead by installing fountains similar to the Elkay EZH2O model in its residence halls.
“We have installed a Brita unit in the Hub breezeway and [we’re] installing another combination unit in Benson Hall,” CMC Director of Facilities Brian Worley said.
Errickson said he was excited to see the new fountains being taken to so well by students.
“I think that people are drinking a lot more water now because it is so accessible and easy to do,” he said. “Also, we’re saving all those [disposable] bottles from the landfill.”
“I’m really glad that we were given the opportunity to show the students such a product and then have them accept it,” he added.