AUSTIN (KXAN) - If you're a walker, runner, hiker, cyclist--or just someone who likes to be outdoors in Austin--you've likely found yourself wondering, "Where are the water coolers along the hike and bike trail?"
Answer is: they're gone, and might not be coming back.
The water coolers once sat on tables near the 1st St. bridge and several others were down the trail under the MoPac overpass.
City officials tell KXAN the Parks and Recreation Department was concerned the water coolers could pose a health hazard. So, they're gone for now, and it will take a city permit to get them back.
The decision has a lot of people who use the trail and appreciate the drinking water disappointed.
"I've been running at Zilker since I was little," said Dillion Canizales, who was running near the 1st St. bridge, "I started here and went to the other bridge. This was my stopping point for water, and it's no longer here."
His story is like many others.
"I actually thought that that was a really cool thing about Austin," said Lindsey Pearce, who moved to Austin from Chicago several months ago, "Is the fact that they had the water coolers for runners. And I used them every day."
Local companies RunTex and Rogue Running provided the coolers, filled them with water, and set them up on tables for everyone to use.
"It's been a great service form RunTex. I think thousands of people appreciate the fact that RunTex does it," said Suzanne Hershey, who's been using the hike and bike trail for 20 years.
The Austin Parks and Recreation Department went to the city's Health and Human Services Department. The concern: liability of the city and permitting procedures.
City officials with the health department told KXAN, "Because these water coolers were not properly permitted, properly secured and locked down--there was a risk for tampering."
The health department said the companies could get an operating permit. They also said, "Vendors also have the option to pass out pre-packaged water."
Rogue Running took their concerns to their Facebook page, asking for feedback from people who use and appreciate the water coolers. The company stressed that permits and inspections would cost them hundreds of dollars a year.
Water-drinkers told KXAN they understand how the coolers could be a risk, but it's a decision they like to be able to make.
"I make that choice every day," Hershey said.
"If people were worried about them being unhealthy, then they didn't need to drink out of them," Pearce said, "I was never concerned about them being unhealthy for any reason."
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