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New student-developed website lets you review UVa drinking fountains

The worst drinking fountain at the University of Virginia is on the first floor of New Cabell Hall near the men’s bathroom. The best is on the fourth floor of Rice Hall. At least, that’s according to UVA Water, a new student-developed website that lets members of the university community review water fountains on and around Grounds.

The site is the brainchild of second-year student and computer science major Emmitt James.

James said he began developing the site after he grew tired of being “tricked” by a drinking fountain in Newcomb Hall.

“The first-floor men’s bathroom in Newcomb Hall was the inspiration behind everything,” James told The Daily Progress. “I knew one of the fountains had hot water, and I would keep accidentally refilling my water bottle with hot water. I was like, ‘You know what, this is probably a problem in multiple buildings, so I’ll just make this website over winter break,’ and now it’s fully deployed.”

There are two water fountains located outside of the first-floor men’s bathroom in Newcomb Hall, and a Daily Progress investigation found the fountain on the right does in fact run warm water.

James said he uses the water fountains at UVa pretty often, so it was easy to begin creating the map for UVA Water from memory. To fill in the blanks, he spent one day before winter break last year walking around Grounds and going into different buildings to mark the location of all of the water fountains.

Now fully operational, James’ website uses a Google Mays layout and has each of the university area’s 21 water fountains pinned and rated on its water temperature and flow. The building where each fountain is housed also receives an overall score for its fountains.

Even though James did not have a concrete plan to market the website, UVA Water already has nearly 200 reviews from anonymous members of the UVa community.

“My brother told me I should post it on Reddit,” James said. “When I did, I expected to get maybe five to 10 upvotes and a couple of people seeing it, then it ended up blowing up a little bit.”

Now, James said, his original Reddit post has nearly 90 upvotes and 8,000 views.

As of Monday evening, the best drinking fountain on and around Grounds, with a perfect score of 5.0 based on three reviews, could be found on the fourth floor of Rice Hall, home to the university’s department of computer science and the computer engineering program. The worst fountain could be found on the first floor of New Cabell Hall near the men’s bathroom, with an average score of 2.4 based on a temperature score of 3.1 and a flow score of 1.7 after 12 reviews.

New Cabell Hall, the largest academic building of UVa’s College of Arts & Sciences, had the lowest overall rating, at 3.3 based on 29 reviews. Rice Hall was tied with the 1515 student center on the Corner for the No. 1 overall score, at 4.3 – though Rice’s score was based on 20 reviews and 1515’s was based on six.

UVA Water started as a mission to stay out of hot water in Newcomb, but it evolved into an outlet for James and his passion for web development.

“One of the main reasons I’ve been wanting to make UVA Water is because I’m trying to get into website development a little more,” James said.

He said he has plenty of projects in his portfolio, and likely in his future plans.

For instance, “I made a different website that takes the weather of your current location and gives you a Premiere League team based on how hot it is,” James said. “If it’s hot in your area, you’ll get a No. 1 or No. 2 team; if it’s cold, you’ll get a team that’s doing pretty poorly.”


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