The History of the Water Cooler

glass filled with clear drinking water

Water has been a constant in human life for as long as we’ve been around — we can go several days without food but won’t survive long without water. As we’ve evolved and developed new technologies, we’ve found easier, more effective ways of sourcing water, such as the water cooler. Water coolers have become a staple in many offices and homes, helping us to keep ourselves and those around us hydrated.

Here at Office H2O, we are proud to offer bottleless water coolers to our clients, the simplest and most effective way to keep yourself hydrated. However, these coolers involve the latest technology for water sourcing — it wasn’t always quite so simple to get your hands on a cold glass of water!

The First Water Purification Systems

The first written record of water purification systems can be traced back to 2000 B.C.E. The Sus’ruta Samhita, Sanskrit medical writings from this time, detail methods involving boiling water over a fire, filtering water through gravel and sand, or even just leaving water out in the sun to purify it. Depictions of a sand-based water filtration system appear on the walls of the tomb of Amenophis II, an Egyptian ruler who was in power around 1500 B.C.E. Then, around 900 B.C.E., the Romans implemented the first city-wide clean water system, building massive aqueducts to transport water from clean sources, such as mountain springs, into cities. Around the same time, the Greeks were employing a water filtration system involving gravel and sand, just like the Egyptians and the Sanskrit medical writings.

As we move into the common era, the collapse of the Roman Empire had disastrous effects on water filtration and delivery systems, sending us several steps backwards. During the middle ages, up until about 1500 C.E., most drinking water was supplied from lakes and rivers, the same places most human waste was being discarded, leading to overwhelming cholera and typhoid outbreaks. Then, in 1671, sand filtration made a comeback when Italian physician Lucas Antonius Portius introduced an upward and downward flow sand filtration system, making drinking water safe once again.

Sand filtration prevailed as the dominant water purification and delivery system for hundreds of years until the 1840s, when wealthy Victorians in the UK decided they wanted to develop a system to deliver chilled water. And thus, the water cooler was born! These early units were massive, clunky, and extremely heavy. They involved glass jugs of water chilled by ice and snow that had been stored in ice houses during the winter. These devices paved the way for further advancements in water purification technology.

The 1900s

In 1911, an American named Luther Haws patented the first drinking water faucet after seeing children in a schoolyard sharing water out of one tin cup. These early iterations of water fountains were only able to provide room-temperature water, an ideal breeding ground for bacteria. Haws’ father died from typhoid fever after drinking contaminated water, so after patenting that first water faucet, Haws set out to find a solution.

It turns out the answer was water coolers! As the dispenser chilled the water, it would eliminate micro-organisms that could cause disease such as typhoid fever. By 1938, Haws had designed a water cooler that made use of electricity, more effectively purifying drinking water and significantly reducing typhoid outbreaks. However, these water coolers involved glass jugs like the original ones designed in the UK, making them difficult and dangerous to transport.

By the 1980s, plastics were becoming more and more popular, eventually replacing the hefty glass jugs that had been a staple of water coolers for decades. This made water coolers much more accessible, and they slowly began to spread across the globe. These coolers also became more aesthetically pleasing, equipped with contemporary finishes that could accentuate a room’s decor. Since the 1980s, water coolers are often equipped with internal air filtration systems that prevent bacteria from entering the machine, completely negating the possibility of contamination. Coolers also became equipped with heating elements that allow them to dispense both hot and cold water.

The Water Coolers of Today

Today, there are two types of water coolers: bottled and bottleless. The bottled coolers come equipped with the plastic jugs of the 1980s, a definite improvement on glass containers, but the plastic jugs come with their own risks and difficulties. Bottleless coolers connect directly to the water supply, negating the need for cumbersome jugs of any kind.

These contemporary coolers, such as those we offer at Office H2O, are now equipped with reverse osmosis purifying systems that destroy microbials and remove chlorine and other sediments from your water. They are also significantly more energy-efficient, providing a safe and convenient way to source clean water. Humans have seen many iterations of water purification and distribution systems across our history, but the convenience and cleanliness of the bottleless water cooler clearly surpasses all the others! Check out our selection of bottleless water coolers today

Photo by Stephan Müller from Pexels