[Not so] touch free water stations at Chatham

Many Chatham community members have found these water stations to be complicated to use.


Students struggle to use water bottle filling stations in Cafe Rachel. Photo Credit: Michaela DeLauter

Michaela DeLauter

Chatham University is considered a “wet” campus, but difficult to use water stations on campus are leaving many faculty, staff and students “dry.”

The initiative to save plastic has led to plastic water bottles unable to be found in Café Rachel. Water stations, implemented in 2007, were a way for students to get water on campus, while also cutting back on the plastic issue.

 Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, public water fountains were shut down for safety concerns. The water stations brought up these safety concerns as they were not touchless. Chatham purchased these touch-free water stations as soon as they became available in 2021. 

These water stations, from supplier Aqua Filter Fresh Inc., are available in most buildings on campus, according to Mary Whitney, Chatham’s sustainability director. However, residence hall kitchens still have an under-sink filter, depending on where the plumbing would best fit.

A map of water coolers available on campus. Photo Credit: Carson Gates

These water stations were to be an easy and efficient way to maintain water stations on campus while also trying to combat COVID-19 issues. 

However, many Chatham community members have found these water stations to be complicated to use.

The purpose of these water stations is to be touchless, allowing people to have access to water, while also combatting the COVID-19 pandemic. These “touchless” water stations, however, often require a button to be pushed for it to work.

The water stations have two modes: button mode or touch-free mode. The instructions to use the water stations are pasted to the top of the station. 

Per the instructions, to use both modes, the user must select the water cup symbol and tap twice within two seconds. Depending on which light turns on, the user will be able to tell which mode is activated. To change the mode, the water cup symbol must be tapped twice again. 

The touch-free sensor is only activated at a distance of two inches from the cooler, meaning if the user is too close or too far away from the sensor, it can cause the station to not work properly. 

 “Everyone struggles with [the touchless water stations],” said a worker at Café Rachel, Dar McCoy. “For those that understand how to use them, they’re convenient. For those that don’t, they usually walk away frustrated.”

 A poll was posted to Instagram asking Chatham students if they found the touchless water stations difficult or easy to use. Out of the 19 respondents, only four people stated that the water stations were easy to use.

Alyssa Ferris ’24 stated, “most of the time when I was trying to fill my water bottle in Café Rachel, I got embarrassed because I couldn’t get it to work.”

These stations can take some time and practice to learn how to properly use, but once the user learns, they can be a quick and easy solution to feeling “dry.”