I guess the atmosphere that I've tried to create here is that I'm a friend first and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third. -Michael Scott, The Office
Question #76492 posted on 03/03/2014 11:50 p.m.

Dear 100 Hour Board,

I've noticed that wherever there's two water fountains next to each other on campus, the shorter one always has colder water. Why is this? Is this true for every drinking fountain on campus?

-Sensitive teeth


Dear Adelaide,

The ADA.

-Tally M., inspired by Haleakala


Dear Steeth,

Concealocanth and I decided to investigate your question in depth, because science. We divided drinking fountain water sources into four categories: high fountains, low fountains, high-volume water bottle fillers (henceforth known as "fwooshie things"), and low-volume water bottle fillers ("proto fwooshie things"). We also kept tabs on whether the fwooshie thing was on the higher or lower fountain, but it proved inconsequential.


This is a fairly standard high-low setup.


This is a high-low with a fwooshie thing attached to the low fountain.


This is a high fountain with a proto fwooshie thing.

We sampled 12 fountain sets in six buildings. Here is the table of results (all temperatures are in degrees Celsius, because science):

Fountain ID Low temp High temp Fwooshie setup Fwooshie temp
Benson 1 10 10 regular high 16
Benson 2 11 8 none n/a
JSB 1 9 9 regular low 20
JSB 2 8 19 none n/a
McKay n/a 9 regular high 20
SWKT 19 18 none n/a
JFSB 1 11 10 none n/a
JFSB 2 11 11 regular low 20
Wilk 1 10 7 proto high 10
Wilk 2 n/a 6 proto high 19
Wilk 3 12 n/a regular low 13
Wilk 4 8 8 proto high 9

And here is the mean, median, and standard deviation temperature for each type:

Type Mean Median St. Dev.
Low 10.9 10.5 3.1429
High 10.455 9 4.2276
Fwooshie 17.8 20 3.1937
Proto Fwooshie 12.667 10


Finally, here are my conclusions:

  • There is very little difference between the high and low fountains.
  • However, the high fountains do tend to be ever so slightly colder.
  • The fwooshie things and proto fwooshie things, especially the regular fwooshie things, give extremely warm water.
  • Don't use fwooshie things to fill your water bottle.
  • Seriously, don't.

-yayfulness and Concealocanth


Dear Sensitive Teeth,

Okay, I need to explain what Tally M. is saying. When your question first came into the inbox, I skimmed it and thought it asked "why is one water fountain shorter than the other?" I was pretty sure that had something to do with the Americans with Disabilities Act, which is sometimes abbreviated ADA. I put a short placeholder answer in explaining this, and Tally M. was kind enough to point out that the ADA does not have any requirements for the temperature from either water fountain.

If it wasn't for the other writers, I would make so many mistakes like that. Thanks everyone!

- Haleakalā


Dear Sensitive,

I've always assumed that the shorter drinking fountain has colder water because it gets used less. If enough people drink from a drinking fountain fast enough, it won't have time to chill the water in its reservoir before it gets used. On the other hand, if a drinking fountain gets used less often, it's more likely that it can chill the water inside.

—Laser Jock