Installing a bottle refill station

Plastic water bottles have become such a scourge that some airports, events and hotels are banning them. Your organization can provide a practical alternative by installing bottle refill stations. Features and costs vary wildly. Answer three questions to clarify the best system for your needs.

Who will the water station serve? If you’re just providing water to employees, many systems will likely work fine. If you’re serving the public, especially in unmonitored areas, be sure to choose one with vandal-resistant features. If it will be outdoors, be sure to get a model designed for that. If you are trying to encourage its use, it may be worth offering filtered water. Does the water need to be chilled? All these features will add costs. In any case, keep in mind ADA accessibility guidelines when you decide where to put it.

How much water will be needed? If you’re only serving the occasional glass of water to customers, a 5-gallon blue bottle upended on a stand may suffice. This is certainly the lowest up-front cost. You can buy the stands for around $40 at a wide variety of retailers like Amazon or Wal-mart. But then you need to buy the water bottles that run around $8 each at those stores. In the Verde Valley area, Sedona Water Works sells the stands and then you can buy six types of water, including reverse-osmosis filtered water which sells for around 35¢ per gallon. But they don’t deliver; you bring in the bottle and fill it up. They’re located off Coffee Pot Rd in Sedona and can be reached at 928 554-2700; no website yet.  But if you don’t want to be bothered with schlepping heavy bottles, you’ll want to get a model that is plumbed into a water line.

Do you have an existing water fountain? If you have an existing bubbler, you can easily buy a retrofit package that provides a refill station with or without a bubbler. Retrofits may cost several hundred dollars. Most basic models cost around $1400-3000. Outrageously fancy ones run up to $9000 or more. You’ll need a plumber to install it and then pay for filters periodically. Depending on your situation, the increase in your own water use may not be a significant expense. One of the most common brands is Elkay which is carried by a wide range of service companies like Grainger and Global Industrial. Check with your facilities department.