'Hydration Station' installed at LaFortune

Author: Rachel Novick

by Laura McCrystal for the Observer

The Hydration Station, an alternative to a traditional drinking fountain, was installed last week between the men’s and women’s restrooms on the first floor of the LaFortune Student Center.

“It is essentially a touch-free water bottle filler,” Director of student activities facilities Ryan Willerton said. “It’s something unique.”

To operate the machine, the student places his or her water bottle in front a sensor, which activates a stream of water that pours into the bottle.

The Hydration Station replaced an older water fountain that was not consistently used and caused maintenance problems, Willerton said. Last June, he began to look at replacement options.

The Haws Corporation markets the Hydration Station as a cheap and environmentally friendly substitute for bottled water. According to the corporation’s Web site, the filter uses carbon to polish the water, and the sensor features a several second delay to allow the user to position their bottle under the spout.

Willerton said the new system is comparable to a traditional drinking fountain in its price and cost of maintenance. Like a water fountain, it connects to the main water line.

Although the Haws Corporation has been producing the Hydration Station for less than one year, Willerton said Notre Dame joined a number of other colleges and universities that already have the system on campus. For example, University of California Berkeley has two units in its Rec Center and the University of Alabama has 15 units in its dorms and athletic department.

While considering the option of a Hydration Station, Willerton and the Student Activities Office contacted a former colleague who works at Penn State to ask about the Hydration Station on their campus. They also asked for feedback from student employees and student government representatives who were on campus this summer.

After viewing a sample machine, Willerton said the Student Activities Office partnered with the Office of Sustainability to fund the purchase of the Hydration Station.

“It’s a nice new addition,” he said. “Every year we try to change the student center and add something new.”

Willerton said the Hydration Station is a great improvement to the LaFortune Student Center because students, professors, staff and visitors can all benefit from its installation.

Senior Mark Manley said that the Hydration Station seems like a logical installation because it is touch-free and more sanitary. He compared it to the automatic hand dryers, sink faucets and soap dispensers in the LaFortune bathrooms.

“I just saw it a few minutes ago, and it looked interesting,” Manley said.

If the system continues to receive positive feedback, Willerton said that additional units might be installed on other floors of LaFortune.

“Everyone we talk to kind of raises their eyebrow and says, ‘Wow, that’s really cool,’” he said.