@udfountains: Dry humor, wet content
Copy Desk Chief
It is, indubitably, a crucial attribute of human life and a tenet of history’s most functional civilizations. Yet, the ubiquity of water in our society has rendered it near impossible to fathom life without it; clean water submits to our will at just the flick of a tap, the twist of a shower knob or the nudge of a toilet handle — all day, every day.
Of course, the same cannot be said for all societies. In 2010, the United Nations officially recognized water as a human right, noting the world’s inequitable access to water and the number of children under the age of five — 1.5 million, then — who die each year as a result of water- and sanitation-related diseases.
The trifecta of climate change, mankind’s snowballing demand for water and the Western world’s largely laissez-faire approach to water-resource policy has not helped to actualize this right for those who need it the most. Nor have the forces of industry, agriculture and globalization: 80 percent of all wastewater finds its way back into the natural environment without treatment, inevitably polluting the world’s freshwater sources — less than one percent of all water on the planet.
Yet, buried beneath these statistics, imbalances and doomsday-esque projections, one simple truth remains: Water is the necessity of all necessities, no matter who you are, where you are or what you are. With it, we live. Without it, we die.
The Instagram account @udfountains, like the United Nations, recognizes the necessity of water. Since January, the account has used its platform to rate water fountains across campus. In doing so, it incorporates anecdotes about temperature, taste, water flow, water pressure, aesthetic and “overall experience,” among other things.
The account has reviewed water fountains all over the university, from Trabant to Alison Hall to STAR Campus. On Sept. 13, as Hurricane Florence approached the Carolina coastline, the account reviewed a water cooler at the university’s campus in Lewes, Del.
“Yes the water is refreshing and cool, but on any given day the jug could be empty, leaving you parched. The flow rate is self-determined but never that fast. Overall 5.1/10.”
Vincent Curatolo, a senior international business major at the university and self-proclaimed “sl-t for water fountains,” came across the account recently. “One of my friends followed it, and it came up on my recommended page. I was like, ‘Oh, f— yeah.’”
For Julianna Di Nino, a senior finance major at the university and so-called “water connoisseur,” the account has been revelatory.
“The water fountain on the first floor of Purnell is really disgusting,” Di Nino says. “But [@udfountains] reviewed a water fountain on the second floor and said it had a better taste and was colder, so I went and tried it and it was.”
“It’s a very honest analysis,” Di Nino says of the account’s reviews. “They have no reason to actually do it, I feel like they just genuinely enjoy reviewing water fountains.”
Earlier this semester, the water fountain on the first floor of Morris Library, adjacent to the Reading Room, was temporarily closed due to repair work. Eventually, the water fountain was removed altogether.
@udfountains documented the process, characterizing the loss as a “monstrosity” and dismissing another water fountain on the library’s third floor: “This fountain is not the beacon of hope [that] Morris Library needs in this serious water drought.”
On Oct. 25, when the library reinstalled the water fountain, @udfountains praised the decision on its story.
Yet, in a less-than-exciting post later on that day, the account simply wrote, “Library first floor. Nice. 6.9/10.”
For Laura Russo, a junior financial planning and services major at the university, the unexpectedness of water fountain reviews distinguishes @udfountains’s humor from that of other university-specific Instagram accounts, like @udeldaily and @blacksheep_ud, which typically display students partying.
Russo attributes this to a sense of togetherness that the account exudes.
“I think it brings together the university’s campus in a way that a lot of other accounts can’t,” Russo says. “Everyone is passing water fountains, everyone uses the water-bottle fillers.”
And everyone, of course, needs water.