We finally have water in our water cooler again! We've been living on Brita water for the last month or so and I just don't like the taste as much as I like the water cooler water. You'd think it was just water but the water from the tap here isn't very tasty and the Brita doesn't filter out whatever it is that makes the water taste the way it does. It would be perfectly fine to drink in a post-apocalyptic setting where water is scarce but since we're not living in that world, I want tasty water. Also, when you drink at least two litres of water each day like I do, you want that water to be tasty.)
The reason we were without yummy water for so long is that we discovered an algae problem. When we last took the bottles in to fill them, we noticed that there was some green stuff in the bottom of each bottle. We checked the water cooler and saw green spots in the top of it. Sigh. We'd had problems with algae in our Brita container before and I think it made me sick but I never expected to have problems with the water cooler.
We think that the algae spores must have blown in from the fountain. We had a lot more algae in the fountain this past year than the year before because the fountain was going for so much longer and it was so much warmer and drier. Even so, I have no idea how the spores got into the bottles or the cooler (or the Brita before, since the algae showed up in February). If there are spores flying into our water bottles, this must mean that there's quite a bit of algae spores flying around in general so we're breathing them in. That's not good. We'll have to try to do something about the algae next year.
To get rid of the algae, Ian used dry rice to scrub out the bottles, rinsed them in a weak bleach solution, and rinsed them thoroughly. I'm not sure how he cleaned the cooler as I wasn't here for that; all I know is that he used a bleach solution but I'm not sure what else he did. Really, all I care about is that the water tastes yummy again.