Providing Safe Drinking Water at Festivals & Fairs: Is It Worth It?

Drinking Water at Festivals

Festival attendees likely won’t consider the availability of water when planning a trip to a festival or fair. Providing safe drinking water at festivals and fairs adds costs and can be challenging logistically. So, you may be asking, how important is it?

While some may consider it a “nice to have” rather than essential, that perception may be more costly in the end. In this blog, we’ll outline the consequences of not having drinking water at festivals and considerations for incorporating drinking water into festival planning.

What can happen if you don’t provide safe drinking water at your festival

There are two main risks when choosing not to provide water for event attendees.

Attendees may not drink water at all (or not enough of it).

Not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration, especially when alcohol is being consumed. The potential for dehydration is higher during warmer weather, which is common for festivals and fairs. Heat-related illnesses like heat stroke and exhaustion are also associated with a lack of water.

Attendees may drink water from unclean sources.

Just because water is there, it does not mean it’s clean or safe. Drinking fountains and other sources that may be on-site can be compromised. Unclean water may contain bacteria and chemicals that can cause infections or worse. 

Also read: Liquor Liability: Is Your Event Covered?

Woodstock ‘99: A case study

Lack of clean drinking water at festivals can lead to dire consequences, as in the case of Woodstock’ 99′. Hundreds of people were treated for dehydration due to the lack of drinking water access and high temperatures. Many also suffered from a condition often associated with World War I called trench mouth, a gum infection caused by bacteria buildup in the mouth. Attendees contracted the illness because of poor sanitation and compromised drinking water. 

These conditions also resulted in a fatality. One attendee collapsed in the crowd and died from hyperthermia secondary to heat stroke after being in a coma for two days. His mother filed a lawsuit alleging the organizers were “negligent by not providing enough fresh water and adequate medical care for 400,000 attendees.” While many issues plagued this event, access to clean drinking water may have prevented a lot of suffering.

Providing easy access to safe water may seem like a simple concept, but many factors must be considered. Next, we will discuss some key questions to ask when incorporating a drinking water component into festival planning. 

Also read: Outdoor Music Festival Insurance is Sound Advice

Considerations for implementing a drinking water plan 

Planning and preparation are critical when providing easy access to clean drinking water at festivals and fairs. It’s not just about how to get the water there and in the hands of attendees. You must keep the water safe, clean, and accessible throughout the event. Consider the following when adding drinking water to your next festival or fair:

  • How much water will you need? Be sure to factor in things like expected attendance and weather.
  • How will the water be stored/distributed, and how will you get it to the location if needed? Water sources may be available at the site. If so, factor in hook-ups and think through possible issues like backflow. If potable water is unavailable at your location, other options include bringing in a tank. 
  • Where will water stations be located? Like emergency exits, water stations should be plentiful and easily visible to attendees. Consider identifying these locations on any maps.
  • How will attendees access the water? Consider distributing refillable cups or water bottles as guests enter the event. 
  • How will you ensure the water is safe to drink and stays that way? Develop a testing protocol and designate a point person(s) to check the water supply regularly. 

Build clean water access and safety into your planning workflow just as you would emergency planning. It’s critical to follow safety guidelines, or you may still be at risk for the consequences outlined above.

Also read: Not All First Aid Stations are Created Equal

Protect yourself with specialty insurance

Ultimately, supplying drinking water at festivals is a safety measure. Much like providing security, there are costs and some extra work involved. But the goal is to keep attendees safe and having fun. Happy guests will come back and spread the word to friends! Taking this step also reduces the risk of lawsuits.

While providing safe drinking water will certainly help mitigate risk, anything can happen when large groups of people gather. Having comprehensive insurance is crucial. McGowan Allied Specialty Insurance’s Special Event Coverage can help you protect yourself from the unknown. Our experienced underwriters are available to discuss your specific insurance needs.

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