Madrid opts for water fountains, not bottles

Drinking enough water is essential – but especially so when competing in the heat of Madrid.

You can hardly notice clouds over the field of play. The temperature is hitting the high 30s in the middle of the day. (That’s in Celsius, which is about 100 Fahrenheit.) And while there are long lunch breaks, up to four hours, it’s still really hot during shooting.

The archers are drinking a lot of water.

“In this heat? Our athletes have different bottles. But let‘s say it's the one here, it’s half-a-litre. So at least four bottles a day,” said USA team manager Leticia Malavasi. “With this heat, it’s the minimum.”

There are 585 athletes from 61 countries at the 2019 World Archery Youth Championships. It’s the largest in history.

If each archer is drinking at least two litres of water a day, that makes for some 16,380 500-millilitre bottles that would be needed during the length of the seven-day tournament. And there are 232 team officials, many volunteers, and other staff and contractors on site.

But there are no plastic bottles in sight.

Instead, the championship organisers have set up 36 water fountains along the back of the athlete shelter on the competition field, plus more in offices and the practice space. Re-usable cans were given out in welcome packs – and it’s made for a much more ecological solution to the problem of hydration.

Event manager Rifaat Chabouk is behind the initiative.

“I decided to start this when I joined the archery federation in Spain in 2016. I went to an event the year before and there was a mess, so much plastic waste,” he said.

“I called a few companies. Normally, it’s easy to install a water fountain at an office or house. But so many companies said they couldn’t help.”

Few providers would give fountains on such a short-term rental, with water supply, for the weekend. But one company agreed and it’s been the norm at national tournaments in Spain ever since.

It’s the most efficient way to have cold water. It’s August and it’s hot in Madrid,” said Rifaat.

“Fortunately, it’s not as hot as it could’ve been. But when you have fridges and you open them to get every single water bottle, then it will never get cold. And every plastic bottle not used is plastic waste that’s not created.”

There’s a constant stream of the large, refillable water containers that fuel the fountains flowing around the venue. The numbers required are huge.

“We ordered 175 bottles. We’ve used now 120. Today we will ask for another 160,” said Rifaat on Tuesday. The event runs until Sunday.

“I think, overall, we will use around 500 containers. It’s just less than 100 for a day. Today, it’s a long day so I expect we will use 80 or 90.”

If the prediction proves true then athletes, officials and volunteers will have consumed an epic 10,000 litres of water by the end of the championships.

That’s the equivalent of 20,000 plastic bottles of water – without a single piece of waste. 

The numbers

  • 585 – athletes participating in the 2019 World Archery Youth Championships.
  • 1170 – litres of water consumed per day if every athlete drinks the equivalent of four bottles.
  • 36 – water fountains on the competition field.
  • 720 – litres of water on the competition field when fountains are all full.
  • 10,000 – litres expected to be needed for the fountains by the end of the championships.

The 2019 World Archery Youth Championships takes place on 19-25 August in Madrid, Spain.