WE THINK of them as a thing of the past, but public water fountains look set to return to Scotland thanks to modern concerns around health and the environment.

Installing water fountains in towns and cities across Scotland will help the fight against obesity and single use plastics, according to campaigning organisations.

The calls follow moves south of the border which have seen both Network Rail and London Mayor Sadiq Khan announce plans to re-introduce water fountains to stations and on city streets.

Both environmental and health experts say a network of free water fountains and re-fill points for water containers in residential streets and parks would help people cut down on both fizzy drinks and plastic waste in Scotland.

Gus Hoyt, programme manager of Refill – a national campaign encouraging businesses to sign up to provide free drinking water on demand – said that “normalising” water as an every day drink was an important step to cutting back on sugar.

In coming weeks Dumfries and Galloway, so far the only place in Scotland where a Refill scheme is running – delivered by local charity Crichton Carbon Centre – expects to have signed up 100 businesses as “water points”. But Hoyt said that the longer aim was not only to increase coverage across Scotland but to encourage authorities to invest in drinking fountains.

“Healthy hydration is one message that we want to push,” he said. “We want to encourage kids to swap juice for water – to get kids used to drinking tap water. If you go to a shop where you are paying for a bottle of water it’s natural that you want to have that bit “extra” and get a coke. That goes for anyone, not just kids.

“So the idea of having water stations is not just about plastics, but about health. We always encourage water fountains – that is one of our main objectives but there are issues like planning permission and budgets for maintenance so this [encouraging businesses to offer water refills] is something that we can do right now.”

Obesity Action Scotland welcomed the call to re-introducing drinking fountains claiming it had an important role in improving our "every day food environment".

Lorraine Tulloch of Obesity Action Scotland said work done in Amsterdam, where water fountains were one of the strategies introduced to reduce childhood obesity, said they could help people cut sugar.

“One of the many things we need to do to improve our diet is to minimise our intake of sugary drinks,” she added. “Providing water fountains across towns and cities could help encourage us all to access water as a healthy alternative.”

In Scotland two out of three adults are overweight or obese, which Tulloch claims is due to an “abnormal environment” in which we are bombarded with adverts and price promotions for unhealthy foods. Sugary drinks make up almost a quarter of our sugar intake and we consume three times more sugar than we should. “Tackling this requires us to fundamentally change the environment that surrounds us every day to make the healthy choice the easiest, cheapest choice,” she added.

Allison Ogden-Newton, chief executive of environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, said: “Keep Britain Tidy’s research shows that the vast majority of people are embarrassed to ask for tap water in shops, cafes and restaurants, so public drinking fountains are a great way to encourage people to refill their own bottles when out and about. It’s good for our health and for the health of the planet.”

Food Standards Scotland’s senior public health nutrition advisor, Anne Milne, added: “Being properly hydrated is important for health and we should aim to drink six to eight glasses of fluid every day.”


Amsterdam: Plans to roll out an additional 300 water fountains and water bottle stations across the city started in 2015, as part of a co-ordinated plan to tackle childhood obesity, increasing the number of traditional fountains. Some are covered in decorative mosaics or designed to look like funny faces.

Paris: Maps direct tourist to the historic “Wallace fountains” designed by Charles-Auguste Lebourg that appear in the form of small cast-iron sculptures scattered throughout the city, while a lucky eight arrondissements were served with carbonated foundations in 2010. Last November authorities announced that they were planning an additional 12 “sparkling” fountains.

London: London’s mayor Sadiq Khan wants to roll out a new network of water fountains and bottle-refill stations across the capital as well as encouraging businesses to be part of in the Refill scheme. Some boroughs already have fountains with several currently planned for parks and playgrounds.

Venice: Nearly every square has a fountain where you can fill your water bottle or bend over to get a drink from the spout (to be sure of avoiding germs don’t let you lips touch it). It’s safe – each year, 10,000 samples are checked by laboratories – and the water fountains are often beautiful too.

Ljubljana: the new crop of drinking fountains scattered across the Slovenian capital's main tourist sites and city parks are said by authorities to send out a strong signal that water is a natural asset that should be accessible to all. Some are public art in their own right.