The Essential Guide to Sports Facility Drinking Water Solutions

One hand holding a water bottle while another hand is reaching out to take it

We all know that it is important to keep our bodies hydrated when exercising or playing sports.

During the hotter months, dehydration can be a serious problem for the sports and leisure industry, often aggravated by the warm climate and Australia’s love for outdoor activities. 

With recent record summer temperatures, sports and gym facilities are today under increasing pressure to provide high quality, accessible drinking water outlets for their patrons.

But with such an extensive range of drinking water products advertised, it is becoming increasingly difficult to choose a suitable solution on the market.

The Civiq sales team has identified ten key features and factors that facility manager should look out for when choosing the right type of drinking water products in their sports centre.

A boy drinking from a water bottle

Importance of hydration

Dehydration is actually an ongoing issue for Australians. One recent study suggests as many as 80% of Australians experience the effects of dehydration, with the majority not even knowing the common warning signs to look out for!

Not drinking enough water can lead to nausea and dizziness, muscle fatigue and cramping, not to mention the loss of concentration and physical performance.

It is needless to say that drinking more water is the simple solution to this matter, and this should be done before, during and after exercising.  Eating more fruits and vegetables is also another way to consume extra water.

From a sports facility point-of-view, it is important that suitable access to drinking water is provided for users, as it is not uncommon for patrons to forget their drink bottles when visiting the facility.

Two Girls utilising and drinking from an Aquafil Pulse Senior 1400BF Drinking fountain and bottle refill station

Encouraging healthy lifestyles

Soft drinks, juices, and electrolyte solutions are alternative beverages to boost water levels in the body; however, they tend to contain high amounts of sugar.

Consuming sugary drinks before exercising can be convenient for a quick energy boost, however, is generally not advisable for sustained performance.

With both adult and childhood obesity figures in the country at record highs, there is definitely a strong argument for encouraging the consumption of water over sugary drinks.

Fitness and leisure precincts can do their bit by offering suitable drinking fountain and bottle refill amenities and promoting this to users, especially children.

Cyclist filling his water bottle from a Drinking fountain and water bottle refilling station installed in a park in the City of Ryde.

Bottle refilling

An amenity that facility managers can quickly implement is a dedicated area for water bottle refilling – an alternative to purchasing single-use water bottles.

There are a few reasons for this – one is that it saves the end-user money and encourages more water drinking.

Another is that it reduces unnecessary waste, which is good for the environment and good for facility managers – requiring less frequent bin empties.

A third reason is that many single-use plastic bottles contain BPA, which is considered a toxin if consumed at high levels.

Currently, Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) does not consider exposure to BPA from food and drink packaging as a health risk; however, scientists and health regulators across the globe continue to debate the effect that the chemical has on our bodies.

Sports facilities can avoid this concern by offering their own, BPA-free plastic bottles for sale and by providing free water bottle refill and drinking fountain stations for patrons.

Image of an all in one Elkay SwirlFlo Bi-level Drinking Fountain with Integral Bottle Filling Station at Adelaide Airport

Styles of drinking water stations on the market

There are a wide range of drinking water stations available in Australia, many of which are manufactured locally and designed especially for sports facilities.

At CIVIQ, we supply local fitness centres with the Aquafil and Elkay branded drinking water stations, which have proven to cover practically all applications.

The most significant aspect when selecting a drinking water station is determining:

  • the quantity required based on foot traffic received by the centre
  • whether the unit is floor standing or mounted to the wall
  • where it is installed
  • whether refrigerated or filtered water is required
  • if the unit will be exposed to outdoor environments where vandal-resistant and weatherproofing is recommended.

Pricing also plays a crucial role in selecting the most appropriate product for a facility, as some products can be more complex in their configurations which can add to the upfront unit costs. Moreover, fees for installation and maintenance are additional expenses that must be anticipated by the buyer.

For sports facilities, we would prescribe no less than one water station for each hundred guests per day. Most recreation centres choose to have more than this ratio to accommodate for unexpected surges in foot traffic, particularly in summer periods.

An Elkay Drinking fountain & bottle filling station with a header caption that reads water bottle refill station installed in at Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre

Drinking Fountain or Water Bottle Refiller?

We call our products ‘drinking water stations’ because many of them contain multiple water-related functionalities.

For example, many of our products just feature a bottle refill outlet, without a fountain bubbler. These are popular with smaller, 24/7 gyms where most users bring their own water bottles to refill. They are compact and do not need much space, and there is a hands-free sensor activated option too.

Drinking fountains are a suitable option for sports centres where bottle refilling is difficult. One recent example was when we worked with ‘Jungle Gym’, which is a children’s activity centre in Perth. They installed Elkay chilled wall-mounted drinking fountains within their main play space, where carrying bottles would be awkward.

Many fitness centres and sporting arenas are moving towards hybrid water stations, which incorporate drinking fountain and bottle refill technologies in an all-in-one station for visitors. Our Aquafil stations, designed for outdoor use, are rapidly increasing in popularity with optional dog drinking bowls installed at the base, making them ideal for outdoor sports precincts, parks and open grounds.

An Elkay Space-ette Freestanding refrigerated drinking fountain installed in a Gym facility

Do I need to filter the water?

The quality of tap water tends to differ slightly across the country, in terms of microparticle composition and taste.

While we generally have high-quality water on tap, the difference between filtered and non-filtered water can be quite noticeable, especially in areas with higher levels of chlorine.

Many drinking water stations have the capacity to include in-built filtration, although the type of filter we recommend will depend on the installation location.

The filters work as a physical barrier to trap microparticles (and occasionally bacteria) from passing through. They typically last about twelve months before needing to be replaced, although in some high usage spaces it can be more frequent than this.

We also offer ongoing maintenance packages after installation, making it easy to manage the filter replacement process.

Three Outdoor Drinking Fountain with a flag attahed on one of them placed at Busselton foreshore

Indoor or outdoor application?

Outdoor drinking water products are developed for long service life in harsh environmental conditions, taking into account vandalism and ominous weather. They are designed and manufactured with marine-grade stainless steel which has proven to offer superior, heavy-duty performance in outdoor spaces.

The benefit of outdoor drinking water stations is that they can be accessed by all members of the public, and can be conveniently sited relative to outdoor sports activities.

Our Aquafil water stations are especially popular for this, due to their robust performance and multi-functional design. They also feature signage panels on the exterior that can be customised with wayfinding graphics, promotional messaging and branding.

On the other hand, some sports clubs prefer indoor water stations because they can be safely locked away when the facility is closed.

Four Aquafil Pulse Senior 1400B Semi-portable bottle refill station at the Australian Catholic Youth Festival 2017

Permanent or portable?

An alternative to conventional permanent drinking water stations is a portable unit. These are popular amongst sports clubs and recreation centres that experience irregular peaks in demand and want a simple setup and stowaway drinking water solution for weekends and holiday periods.

We worked on a recent project for City of Gold Coast where we created a suite of portable outdoor drinking water stations to accommodate the huge influx of visitors during the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The product they have specified features a broad stainless-steel base that can connect up to several other units – creating a whole bank of bottle refill outlets for high usage locations. The display panels of the units also featured Gold Coast logos and colours to better tie in with the game’s branding.

A man in a wheelchair refilling his bottle from an Aquafil Drinking fountain and bottle refill station

Accessibility for all

It is essential for facility managers to focus on the different needs of their patrons and to guarantee that everyone has access to fresh drinking water. This means that children and wheelchair users must have easy and capable access to the drinking water stations. The majority of our products cater to this, although there are definite stand-out products in this space.

Some of our products, for example, feature extra-deep fountain basins to make it that bit easier for wheelchair users to access the water. We also have several products with ‘dual-height’ fountains – which are great for spaces used by both adults and children.

An Aquafil Dual-height drinking fountain & bottle refill station installed in the City of Belmont, Western Australia

Serviceability

Serviceability is always a major worry for facility managers, and therefore needs to be taken into account. One-off purchases from online stores can be cheap and convenient, but often provide limited warranties and service options. Having to replace a cheap unit after six or twelve months can prove to be a more expensive option than buying a quality product at the outset, and cause unnecessary inconvenience too.

Most of our products, for example, come with a two- to five-year warranty, and we have an established network of plumbers and electricians across the country who work on our product installations, as well as maintenance when required.

Outdoor drinking water station installed near a fountain out the front of Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre

Financial assistance

Conducting some research may lead to the discovery that your sporting facility is eligible to apply for grant funding to help cover the expense of a drinking water station. Each state has unique requirements for eligibility, so it will be worth speaking to a government authority to learn more.

A good example of this was our recent project for Melbourne Sports and Aquatic Centre, who received funding from VicHealth to cover the cost of ten indoor and outdoor water drinking stations throughout the complex. There are also a number of sustainability grants available that can cover drinking water station, as the products encourage healthy lifestyle choices and reduce plastic waste.

The shortlist

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing a drinking water station, and this can vary depending on the current situation of the facility.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as every sports and recreation facility will have different user frequency, facility set-up, tap water quality, functionality requirements, and installation deadlines – money to spend on improving amenities.

It is a great idea to visit different sports facilities and see how their drinking water stations products perform. Conducting research via the internet is a great place to start, however, we recommended getting in touch with a salesperson, as they can guide you through the process and make recommendations based on your needs.

Drinking water stations
Hand washing stations
Outdoor showers
Notice board & poster displays
Bicycle security
Wayfinding signage
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