Only one in five children's playgrounds in the lower North Island have drinking fountains, say researchers concerned about access to drinking water in public places.
Drinking fountain (file picture).
As the country emerges from the recent heatwave, Otago University researchers have revealed the results of their survey of drinking fountains from Gisborne down to Wellington.
They looked at 54 children's playgrounds and found only 11 had drinking fountains. Eight of the 17 councils had no fountains in any of the playgrounds looked at, while only one council had fountains in each playground.
Professor Nick Wilson, in the study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, says in the era of climate change awareness, drinking water is an important civic investment.
"Good access to drinking water in outdoor public places is also becoming recognised internationally as a health issue, due to the need to provide healthy options in contrast to sugary drinks, which contribute to obesity and rotten teeth," he said.
Researchers also found that the fountain quality varied greatly. Three fountains had discolouration around the drinking nozzle.
Some fountains did not properly collect the waste water from the drinking nozzles and some did not have suitable surfaces for the water to drain away, resulting in soft, wet or muddy ground.
"We even found a fountain with grass growing out of the drainage sink part," Prof Wilson said.
There appeared to be a need for a systematic requirement for drinking water in public places, he said.
Councils also needed to ensure they maintained, repaired and replaced drinking fountains.
The study follows on from another one done last October, which showed only six per cent of Wellington city's 47 playgrounds have drinking fountains. It found problems such as discolouration from algae or metal degradation in almost half of them.