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Hygiene of drinking fountains & water dispensers

We summarize the most important points on hygiene in connection with water dispensers with a fixed water connection, describe the consequences of poor cleaning and the solutions to obtain hygienically perfect drinking water.

Ein öffentlicher leitungsgebundener WasserspenderÖffentlicher barrierefreier Trinkwasserspender mit Festwasseranschluss
Öffentlicher WasserspenderBarrierefreier öffentlicher Trinkwasserbrunnen

Daily use by different people places high demands on a fixed water dispenser. Hygiene is always a top priority, especially since 2020, hygiene has been a particular focus of the operator of drinking water dispensers. Various procedures enable reliable and impeccable hygiene of your device, which no one can complain about if carried out properly. Thorough cleaning and disinfection of the water dispenser and optional hygienic rinse are part of this.

Is water from water dispensers with a fixed connection generally hygienically perfect?

The quality of the water when a new device is connected to the drinking water pipe is generally perfect. Water is considered the most heavily controlled foodstuff in Germany, as confirmed by the Federal Office of Consumer Protection and Food Safety. However, careless installation, improper handling of the device or long downtimes, high room temperatures and inadequate cleaning and disinfection can result in contamination of the water, the filling system or the tap.

You can find out more about water, the number one staple food, here.

Trinken von öffentlichen Trinkwasserbrunnen im Sommer

What is the significance of a possible bacterial load in the water?

Germ contamination primarily means a deterioration in the quality of water from a hygienic point of view. Germ growth is often a result of long downtimes in pipes, the use of unsuitable biological sealants (hemp) or external contamination. These problems can be avoided in part with automatic hygienic flushing. Acute health risks are possible, but do not have to occur if the operator carefully checks the device and acts quickly when necessary. According to experts, people with a weaker immune system, such as the sick, the elderly and children, are most likely to be at risk. The detected germs can cause diarrhoea, vomiting or fever. To date, however, no direct connection has been found between the consumption of water from water dispensers and the diseases mentioned above (as of 10.2020).

Who is responsible for water quality?

For free-standing water coolers, the German Bottled Watercooler Association (GBWA) has published the so-called “Guidelines for Good Hygiene Practice for Watercooler Companies.” These guidelines describe hygienic requirements for the production, use, hygiene and cleaning of containers and filling plants. Both manufacturers, distributors and providers of water are responsible for compliance with these guidelines. These guidelines date from 2005.

In January 2022, the BMU adopted a uniform guideline published for the operator, primarily for health authorities, of drinking water wells. Drinking water wells are defined as water dispensers with a fixed water connection in public, unprotected outdoor areas that are used by an undefined number of people. Health authorities in the individual federal states can use these extremely informative recommendations to protect users and prevent risks and subsequent damage. Other operators of piped drinking water wells can also follow these guidelines from the BMEL.

Which law applies?

In case of doubt, the operator of a drinking water well is bound by the requirements of the local health authority. This must be informed before and after installation about the construction of a drinking water well for the public distribution of drinking water.

Tip for more hygiene at drinking water wells:

DIN EN 1717 is considered to protect drinking water from contamination caused by backflow throughout Europe. This means that backflow preventers, which are installed in the form of a small device between the house connection and the water dispenser, should prevent backcontamination of the central drinking water network. Backflow preventers only allow pipes to flow in one direction. When the flow direction is reversed, they close automatically and open again when the flow direction is allowed — also automatically.

A ring line is also useful because it ensures that the water always circulates. Another option is to install an additional consumer, such as a water tap, on the corresponding pipeline string. This minimizes the risk of stale water.

Automatic hygienic flushing is the ultimate against stagnant water. Although it costs more than a ring line, it offers ultimate protection against stagnant water, as it automatically pushes a few liters of water through the water dispenser lines every 4 hours without a power connection. This prevents the formation of germs and the multiplication of fours and thus increases the hygiene concept many times over.

Recommendation for the public installation of a drinking water well:

When installing a public drinking well, you should contact the responsible health department or waterworks before constructing and operating a drinking fountain with a direct connection.

Drinking well systems are generally not completely equipped with a DVGW logo, i.e. systems that are assembled on site from individual functional components must be tested by experts in accordance with Schank V before initial operation. The operator is responsible for proper operation. However, we also have one DVGW certified drinking water well, the SUSA.


Drinking fountains must be cleaned routinely or as required to remove potential contamination caused by, for example, biofilm, standing water or contaminants added from outside. The drinking-carrying lines must be internally flushed using suitable methods and the externally visible parts, such as the drinking faucet, must be clean. Either specific time intervals, such as every 3 — 6 months, or cleaning as required, are recommended. A short rinse should be carried out daily before first use unless an automatic hygienic rinse is integrated, which automatically removes the standing water every 4 hours.

After weekends, rinse 1-2 minutes if the device has not been used during this time. Before extended periods of rest, such as during holidays or in winter, the entire device should be drained, i.e. the supply line including the fitting should be emptied so that there is no more water in the system. Before restarting, extensive flushing or replacement of the inner pipes is recommended, which is only associated with low costs of between 30 and 60€.

Automatic flushing with a time interval is generally recommended in order to save yourself work and costs and to be on safe footing as an operator.

After assembly:

From a technical point of view, a simple drinking fountain without a filter is maintenance-free! Nevertheless, regular and, if necessary, extraordinary maintenance should be carried out, especially with outdoor drinking wells.

If no frost-proof valves are installed in the device, it should be disinfected for 30 minutes after the winter break. We have special disinfectants for this. Our drinking water well disinfectant contains sodium hypochlorite, which is also used to disinfect teeth during root canal treatment and is therefore compatible with humans. After disinfection, the well pipes are rinsed with plenty of water so that residual amounts of disinfectant are completely removed.

It is recommended to rinse at a flow rate of 2m per second so that particles stuck to the line can also be removed. For this reason, other disinfectants can also be used.

Hygiene of a water dispenser in the time of corona/COVID-19

The good quality of German tap water is partly due to the fact that the tap water network in Germany is a relatively closed system. The risk of coronavirus contamination of tap water is therefore very unlikely. The Federal Environment Agency also confirms this. Nevertheless, it makes sense to clean publicly available devices more often than those in an office, for example.

Thorough care and cleaning of the water dispenser is essential to maintain the high standard of hygiene. Although it is possible to use a water dispenser in times of corona, this should, if possible, take place subject to a well-thought-out hygiene concept that ensures the safety of everyone involved. The contact points of the water dispenser in particular pose an increased risk of contamination.

Measures for hygienic use of the water dispenser:

  • If the water dispenser has not been used for a few days, it is recommended that you rinse the dispenser thoroughly before tapping the water again. As a result of the flushing processes, stale water is removed from the pipes. Rinsing works like this: Simply let 2-5 liters of water flow through.
  • Using your own vessels such as cups, glasses or bottles to reduce the risk of transmission of bacteria and viruses. In this way, any contamination is minimized.
  • Place a (pictorial) instruction manual near the fresh water dispenser to explain to users how to use the device hygienically.
    Regular cleaning and disinfection of the water-bearing parts of the device.
  • It is advisable to appoint a person who ensures that hygiene measures are implemented and complied with. In general, rules on personal hygiene and safety should be followed.

Conclusion: Hygiene for water dispensers with a fixed connection

In principle, solid water dispensers are hygienic if they are properly installed, maintained and equipped with a hygienic rinse. The risk of contamination by viruses or bacteria can be further minimized by a contactless water dispenser.

In terms of hygiene and hygiene measures, water dispensers with a fixed water connection have the advantage over those with gallons that they are easy to handle and are connected directly to the water pipe. Taped water dispensers also have the advantage that they are independent of external water supplies, and contamination can quickly occur as a result of contact with humans. In addition, German tap water is constantly thoroughly monitored and filtered through tests before it flows out of the tap.