London could soon be awash with drinking fountains, with 100 new installations in the pipeline across the capital.
This year plans for 20 fountains were unveiled in a joint venture between the mayor of London and partners, with recent figures suggesting those installed so far have already dispensed thousands of litres of water to thirsty members of the public.
Now the mayor, Sadiq Khan, has announced a partnership with Thames Water to build on the success and install a further 100 fountains between spring 2019 and the end of 2020.
Khan said: “For many years, our public water fountains were discarded and neglected whilst single-use plastic waste soared. We’re determined to reverse that trend and help deliver hundreds more free public fountains in the capital for everyone to enjoy.
“There is a real appetite for refilling and I want Londoners to lead the way in topping up on tap water when we’re on the move. This great new fund will significantly boost the number of public fountains in some of the busiest places across London from next spring.”
Shirley Rodrigues, deputy mayor for environment and energy, said: “We have seen how popular [the approach] is. We are getting kids writing in to Sadiq all the time saying: ‘We want to see more drinking water fountains, what are you doing?’”
Thames Water and the mayor are each contributing £2.5m to fund the venture, with the mayor’s share coming from cash earmarked in his budget for efforts to tackle the issue of single-use plastic.
“We want to see applications from boroughs, from businesses, from museums, theatres – anywhere that we know there are lots of people around who might be wanting to not buy a single-use plastic bottle but would rather have a drinking water fountain,” said Rodrigues.
The aim, Rodrigues added, is that successful applicants would not have to stump up funds of their own, but would have the drinking fountain and installation costs covered.
“The maintenance of the asset, which is sometimes a block for people applying, Thames Water are going to cover that, so that means it will always be maintained,” she said, adding that the fountains would therefore not suffer the fate of previous facilities which fell out of use as a result of local authority cuts.
The announcement builds on previous efforts to encourage Londoners to embrace a refill culture. “I think people will be surprised how making those really small changes really makes a massive difference,” said Rodrigues.
Will Routh, from the grassroots group Water for London, said the latest announcement was good news but that there is more to do.
“The key to this next stage will be increasing the pace of delivery to address these urgent issues – in the 10 months since the mayor made his initial commitment to deliver 20 pilot fountains, only a handful have actually been installed,” he said.
“By the end of 2020, Water for London would like to see the size of this new network of public water refill fountains eclipse the 800 fountains that existed in London over 100 years ago.”