Free water at a festival can be a life saver for any music fan. For most fans, they will be relieved to know that organizers are required to provide free water stations where possible.
The nature of whether festivals have to provide free water to ensure that patrons stay hydrated and safe varies with it being a law in Australia and Europe, but not throughout the entire United States
Even though soft drinks and alcoholic beverages may have bigger demands, no drinks provide a valuable and vital resource as water does.
With staying hydrated being important for any fan at festivals, getting access to it is something that many overlook. So do festivals have to provide free water?
The Importance of Hydration At Festivals
If you go to a music festival, drinking water isn’t always going to be your highest priority. Indeed, it’s more tempting to guzzle down pints of beer or whatever spirits you can get a hold of.
However, this isn’t the right way to enjoy hours at a music festival, particularly if you are out in the blazing sun all day where cover is limited.
So staying hydrated is especially important if you want to get through the day unscathed. This is because dehydration can lead to potentially serious conditions such as:
- Heat Stroke
Having any of these episodes can lead to serious drama such as the risk of serious injury and even death if you’re not careful.
The body loses even more fluids than you might be aware of at a festival. For example, any jumping or constant movements will cause you to sweat more. Sweat is designed to cool your body but it also severely reduces the body’s hydration levels.
This was underlined by the former head dietician for the Australian Olympic team Prof. Louise Burke OAM, who highlights the importance of staying well-hydrated.
Prof Burke, Chair of Sports Nutrition at the Australian Catholic University, says that “dehydration interferes with other body in a variety of ways reducing our ability to stop overheating.”
Therefore, you need to drink water regularly if you want to stay in top form during a festival. No matter if it is for a few hours or a few days.
This helps the body overcome any hurdles as Prof Burke elaborates: “We have been designed to so that our brains lets us know when we are doing something useful. It rewards us for this behaviour that will ultimately create a useful physiological effect.”
Do Festivals Have to Provide Free Water?
It’s all well and good to suggest drinking water, but it needs to be accessible for everyone if it is such an important resource. That’s why many people wonder if it’s a legal requirement for festivals to provide free water.
Well, it depends on where you go in the world. Some places such as the USA leave it up to the event organizer themselves, but other places such as Australia and Europe have it as a legal requirement. So what is the exact situation across the planet?
Festivals in the USA
Believe it or not, there are no rules in the US that force festivals to provide free water to patrons at an event. This is applied to laws at both federal and state levels.
That doesn’t mean that water isn’t readily available though. Many of the major festivals do have free refill stations for fans to get water. It’s the same no matter if you go to Coachella, EDC or Lollapalooza
However, they won’t provide a bottle for patrons to do just that. And event organisers are also strict on bottles being brought into festivals.
So do some due diligence when you go to a show and make sure you keep hold of a cup or bottle inside the venue to ensure you can make use of these refill stations around the site.
Festivals in Australia
In Australia, it’s the law for festivals to provide free water when the event is going on. This is underlined in the 2002 Liquor Regulation that states that venues must provide water to patrons on request to gain their alcohol license.
However, some states refine the law much further to ensure fans can stay hydrated. For example, the New South Wales government strictly defines that water stations must be provided for an event to go ahead and be licensed. This is huge for anyone who wants to put an event on in major scenes such as Sydney or Byron Bay.
It’s a similar story around Australia’s main music hub – Melbourne. Venues around the city are required by Victorian state law to provide free water whenever alcohol is served. However, exemptions are given if the location cannot provide safe drinking water to patrons.
This was underlined by a statement from a Liquor Control Victoria spokesperson who said “Licensed venues (in Victoria) that supply alcohol for consumption on–site are required to provide free drinking water. This includes festivals with a liquor license. Substantial fines may apply for non-compliance.”
Festivals in Europe
No matter where you are in Europe, music festivals must provide free water as the event progresses. And this is a rule that is generally seen across the continent.
For example, any event in The Netherlands must provide free water for it to go ahead. This includes large festivals such as ADE, Pinkpop and Mysteryland, which all have notorious reputations for alcohol consumption.
Even in the UK, it’s a law for festivals to provide free water. UK licensing laws state that water must be available free on request at any venue or event that serves alcohol. So you can get a free drink of water no matter if you are at Glastonbury, Download or Reading & Leeds Festivals.
How Festivals Handle Free Water
For festival organizers, finding ways to provide free water can be a tricky experience. It’s not just down to the nature of finding a safe source to drink from.
It also includes finding ways to do it without breaking the bank and doing it in a sustainable nature. With that in mind, festivals often use several methods such as:
- Refill stations
- Reusable cups
- Bottle Checks
These are often inexpensive ways to provide easy access but also reduce the risks of rowdy customers and excess wastage. But how do these have an effect?
Free refill stations
What you will find is the easiest way for festivals to provide free water to customers is through free refill stations.
Free refill stations are self-managed taps where water can be accessed without any supervision required.
Furthermore, multiple sites can be placed across a festival site. So no matter where fans might be, they can access water near any stage, entry point or outlet.
This not only reduces long lines, but ensures that everyone is never too far from a hydration station if they need water desperately.
In bids to improve sustainability, many festivals look to encourage refills instead of using disposable cups. So some fans might find themselves charged for bottles and cups at an event for any beverage.
But that’s to encourage festival-goers to reuse their cups for getting water whenever necessary. There are two main reasons for this:
The first is to improve their overall sustainability. For many events, reducing their carbon footprint is a big goal. A big way of doing this is by reducing the amount of plastic bottles and cups dumped during an event. Therefore, encouraging water refills can help achieve this.
Alongside that, it also helps stop illicit or excess alcohol from being snuck into events. There are always cases where fans try to sneak in spirits disguising it as water in bottles. By minimizing water bottles allowed into a festival, organizers can overcome this challenging issue.
Tips For Staying Hydrated At Festivals
Staying hydrated at music festivals is always an essential part of enjoying an event. Especially if it is a hot day with minimal coverage. So what can you do to help stay hydrated?
Drink water regularly.
Whenever you are out, try to drink one or two cups of water every couple of hours. The body uses 100ml to every 150ml of water consumed, so think about this when dancing or jumping wildly in a crowd.
Replacing fluids and electrolytes is crucial when trying to rehydrate your body. This was underlined by Prof. Burke who suggests “the requirement is to replace water and electrolytes for fluid replacement.”
Avoid excessive alcohol consumption.
Alcoholic drinks may have water in them but they are anything but hydrating. The alcohol makes your body use up twice as much water to help process it through the body.
So avoid drinking alcohol heavily if you want to stay hydrated, as explained by Prof Burke:
“There is a decrement associated with alcohol intake. This increases with the amount that is consumed,” she says. “One-two standard drinks on occasion is a low risk.”
Keep yourself cool.
The warmer you are, the more you sweat – using up water levels to keep yourself cool.
So wear loose clothing and hats to stop the sun from overheating your body and help your body stay cool as you dance and jump at a show.
At the end of the day, you will often find that festivals will provide free water to patrons throughout the whole event. It’s not just a requirement for some, but also a common sense practice.
Having refill stations and accessible water helps festival-goers stay safe and healty. Furthermore, it is a free resource that won’t cost anyone to access, no matter if a station is supervised or not.
Even when it is not a legal requirement, festivals will often have water access readily accessible. This is to help reduce their carbon footprint as well as help control excess consumption of alcohol.
These are all things that will also help festival-goers have a good time at an event without overexerting themselves. It’s why many festivals provide free water to fans around the world.
Special thanks to Prof. Louise Burke OAM and Liquor Control Victoria