Faculty voice:

Joan Rose: MSU Fountain Challenge

Nov. 30, 2016

Joan B. Rose is the 2016 recipient of the Stockholm Water Prize, the world’s most-prestigious water award, and an international expert in water microbiology, water quality and public health safety and Rose is the Homer Nowlin Endowed Chair of Water Research within the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.

Do you drink out of public water fountains or do you think they’re gross? What if we could improve the human condition and protect public health by giving people easy access to innovative, beautiful public drinking water fountains that provide safe water?  This was our inspiration for creating the MSU Fountain Challenge

Water fountainWe know that the answers to some of the most important questions – like maintaining clean drinking water in all situations – are right here on this campus. Our students represent the next generation of problem solvers. The MSU Fountain Challenge taps into this creativity.

Historically, public water fountains provided a gathering place in the public square, often provided access to drinking water, and served as a community memorial or as public art. Most of those that remain no longer provide drinking water. They are replaced by today’s utilitarian drinking water fountains found throughout schools and other public spaces and that often have little artistic merit or community value. And people often do not trust the quality of water from them.

In the face of increasing concerns over water contaminants, a redesign of the modern drinking fountain can bring people and the environment together.

The MSU Fountain Challenge competition charges students to combine art and design to create a new drinking fountain that would replace antiquated equipment and increase access to safe and wholesome drinking water in public spaces.  Improving access to water in public spaces has multiple benefits, such as reducing waste from plastic bottles and improving health by promoting consumption of water over other beverage choices.

The competition is still in Phase 1, where students form teams and create a “back of the napkin” design for the water fountain of the future. Students choose to design a fountain in one of three categories: school drinking fountains, community fountains, and portable fountains for emergency response. Teams have until December 23 to submit their concepts. Phase 2, in which the top teams from Phase 1 will create more detailed designs with the help of mentors, will begin in January 2017. The top three student teams will be awarded the following prizes:  first place $15,000; second place, $7,000 and third $5,000.

For more information visit the competition website