I have heard (particularly but not exclusively from my friends who grew up in Asia, where the situation may be different) that you should not drink water from a sink in the bathroom.


They believe the water from a water fountain is safe and good for drinking. However, they believe the water from the sink in the bathroom (I'm not sure why this specifically) comes from some sort of dirty water source, which is apparently still fine to wash your hands with.

It all sounds a bit strange to me; honestly, it seems more expensive to build and maintain two sets of pipes than you would save by using less purified water in some areas. But what do I know? Maybe they're right.

To be clear; this is all taking place on a college campus in Maryland, but I suspect the answer is probably the same across most of the US (possibly across the world, but I don't know).

  • 2
    Some drinking fountains have filters, in which case there may be less chlorine or other non-water substances.
    – DavePhD
    Jun 12, 2015 at 19:22
  • 1
    Sometimes, faucets do not contain potable water, but are considered adequate for washing. They're pretty common at campgrounds and RV sites. But they do tend to be clearly labeled. Anecdotally, crud in a faucet aerator is often less visible than a dirty drinking fountain spout. Jun 13, 2015 at 2:05
  • Remember, they are coming from places where tap water isn't safe to drink. If they put in a drinking fountain in such a place (they're very rare) it will have the necessary equipment to make the water safe. (It might still taste pretty bad, though.) Jun 14, 2015 at 1:24

1 Answer 1


Since the question refers to a college campus in the USA, I will quote information from UC Berkley.

[Question] The only tap water source available to me is the restroom sink. Is it okay to drink water from there?

[Answer] Drinking fountains and sinks are all part of the same plumbing system. Drinking fountains, however, may feature chillers or filters to improve the temperature and taste. It’s okay to drink water from the restroom sink if there is no drinking fountain or kitchen sink available. There is no significant risk of water contamination from restroom faucets.

(Personally, I would add that nowadays many of the restroom sinks provide only a blend of hot & cold water, which are separately supplied, whereas the drinking fountains are only connected to cold water. Hot water leaches more contaminants such as lead from pipes. See New York Times article.)

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