Cambridge council unanimously backs investigating drinking fountains in core areas


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May 16, 2023

Cambridge council unanimously backs investigating drinking fountains in core areas

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Cambridge will look into dipping its toe into bringing drinking fountains back to the city.

Council voted unanimously June 6 to send Coun. Scott Hamilton's motion of having a drinking fountain installed in "a public area" of the city — with a possibility of more in the future — back to staff for a report and recommendation.

"I think it's time the city at least explores having one outdoor public drinking fountain as a prototype, as a pilot project, to see how it works out. They used to be plentiful in the city and now we have absolutely none," Hamilton said.

According to city staff, drinking fountains were taken out of commission around 2006 and later removed after the Walkerton E. coli contamination, in response to the province's Clean Water Act.

But now that Canada has some of the cleanest and most plentiful water in the world, Hamilton said, he thinks it's time to bring back more accessibility for people enjoying the outdoors.

He waxed nostalgically about coming from a small town and living in Europe, where drinking fountains were just yards apart. The loss of fountains locally never seemed to click in until he was biking with his young son.

"Anyone who's had a toddler on the back of a bike knows when they want water they want it now," he said.

"To find a spot to lock up, pop off, go into a store to buy a bottle of water, which inevitably we’d have to throw into a garbage bin, helping to accumulate the over two billion plastic bottles that end up in our landfills in Ontario each year, I think this is something we as a city can improve on."

Hamilton acknowledged there are concerns with the fountains — the worry they may become "a germ factory," the possibility of vandalism and costs to implement them.

He countered there are drinking fountain models that won't make it necessary for people to put their mouths on the spout, vandalism can be deterred by having the fountain in a public and well-used space, and high costs can be curbed by installing the fountain on an existing water source.

"It's not necessarily a reason to say no to anything; it's something to keep in mind and be very cautious and concerned about," he said.

Coun. Corey Kimpson said she was receptive to the idea, and asked staff to also look at maybe linking the drinking fountain project to the Blue W website should it come to fruition. In partnership with the Region of Waterloo, the Blue W website marks restaurants, shops and spaces where public access to tap water is available for the purposes of refilling a water bottle for free.

Kimpson pointed out there are nine spots marked on Blue W's map within a two-block radius of Cambridge City Hall.

"I think it would be another option to help draw people around."

Coun. Nicholas Ermeta said he could get behind investigating the motion, but wanted more information before he could support having a fountain in one of the downtown areas.

"I’m always cautious when it comes to adding new infrastructure because there is a cost to maintain it."

Mayor Jan Liggett concurred, saying she's also interested in seeing the cost around the possible fountain come budget time.

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