girl using water refilling fountains O Initiative
O”-shaped public water refilling stations double as piece of artwork

A Manly Council study found that 85 per cent of people are reluctant to drink from conventional public drinking fountains.

Gretha Oost from the O Initiative told The Fifth Estate that this is one of the reasons single use plastic water bottles remain so prevalent.

To solve this problem and help reduce the amount of disposable water bottles that end up in landfill, rivers and oceans, Ms Oost decided to create a new type of public drinking fountain designed for refilling reusable bottles.

“Why should we only cater to that 15 per cent [of people who are happy to drink out of conventional water fountains]?

“If you want to design for behaviour change, you have to design for the desired behaviour,” she said. For councils, this involves installing the appropriate infrastructure to encourage people to bring their own water bottles.

The organic, “O”-shaped public refilling stations double as a piece of artwork, with each fountain decorated by a local artist.

This is attractive for councils that have set budgets for public art.

“I like the idea that councils are killing two birds with one stone.”

There are now five water fountains in both Australia and the Netherlands.

But rather than relying on councils, Ms Oost aims to forge partnerships between the three “P’s” – people, public, and the private sector. 

The idea is that private corporations, such as developers, will sponsor the installation and management of the fountains as part of their corporate responsibility obligations.

Once the blank refilling station is installed, local artists submit their designs.

“Then we hand the O fountain over to you, the people, to take ownership of the blank canvas and transform it into a unique piece of local art,” Ms Oost said.

“It’s a really great way of activating the site,” she said. In a new residential building or precinct, “you can put it down as a blank canvas and engage a new community around it.”

Although still a very new company, Ms Oost said the response from stakeholders has been positive so far. There are now five fountains in both Australia and the Netherlands, including in The District Docklands area in Melbourne.   

“The feedback [from people] is that you want to hug it and touch it. That is so brilliant because with current public fountains people don’t want to touch it.”

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  1. Many airports around the world combine a normal drinking fountain with a place to easily refill water bottles.It is the way to hydrate easily.

  2. I think this a great initiative, and I hope to see it expanded much further, particularly around parks / gardens, bike paths, food courts and shopping centres.
    Whilst it favours use for refilling bottles, it can be used as an drinking fountain as well, just by leaning into it and pushing the button on the side. It is also at an ‘accessible’ height, presumably for wheelchair users. The challenge it helps deal with is that most people refuse to use conventional public water fountains, as they are poorly designed to maintain hygiene (ie. holding your mouth over the faucet to drink water / wash hands / etc, any dirty water falls back onto the outlet); this design is from the top, so there is little opportunity for accidental contamination.
    In my workplace, most of us use a glass bottles to refill our filtered water (usually unnecessary I know, but our buildings tapwater is milky), and my children all carry a stainless steel bottle for school or when we’re going out, so there’s rarely a need to use a plastic bottle (which is manifestly unhealthy and unsustainable).

  3. So, your in a wheelchair, or over six foot and you want a drink … huh?

    So the plan is we all have to carry PLASTIC bottles around, on the offchance we need a drink?

    Just how much embodied energy is one of these?
    How many disposable plastic bottles would have to be saved to construct one of these?
    Whats wrong with a spring loaded tap sticking out of an accessible bubbler/drinking fountain?
    This and its ‘filtered/chilled’ cousins are encouraging people to distrust government by training people to view water from a tap as unsustainable, untrustworthy, or simply old fashioned.