Featherstone: Where's a working fountain when you need one?
We all know the feeling.
Parched from a game of pickup soccer in the park or a morning of shepherding kids at the playground, we're relieved to find a public drinking fountain. Too often, however, the fountain is busted or too gross to use.
The desperate search for free water in the park is an unhappy ritual of summer in New York City. The civic organization New Yorkers for Parks issues a yearly report evaluating the maintenance of all the city's large parks, and drinking fountains have been the report's lowest-rated feature for two years in a row.
Many fountains are broken or unsanitary, the report finds. In others, the water pressure is too weak. Eleven percent of the fountains in the most recent report could not be turned off or were continually leaking water -- a huge waste.
Summer is getting hotter in New York City, with temperatures rising an average of 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit every decade from 1901 to 2000, because of climate change. Like other large cities, New York feels hotter than rural areas because we New Yorkers are surrounded by more concrete and traffic, and fewer trees.
In the coming summers, more New Yorkers are expected to die from the extreme heat, according to a study released in May by researchers at Columbia University and the Chinese Center for Disease Control.
Staying hydrated is a key tool in preventing heat-related deaths, and easy access to water fountains can help.
Not to mention that the plastic water bottles we buy when we can't find a drinking fountain may also hasten climate change. As Elizabeth Royte, a vocal advocate of public water fountains and author of "Bottlemania: How Water Went on Sale and Why We Bought It," has pointed out, it takes 17 million barrels of oil to make a year's worth of water bottles used by Americans.
Clearly we need big policy solutions to global warming. But we also have to find myriad ways not to make the problem even worse, and to survive the changes already upon us. Fixing those drinking fountains is the least we can do.
Liza Featherstone lives and writes in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn.