The number of point of use (POU) water coolers installed in west Europe last year leapt by 23%, according to recent research.

Drinks analyst Zenith International said today (11 June) that over 100,00 new water coolers were fitted in 2006, taking the total to 534,000. Also known as plumbed-in or mains-fed coolers, POU systems purify and chill mains tap water, offering a continuous water supply.

The core focus of POU activities across Europe rested on placement in offices, representing a slightly reduced 56% of all installations, Zenith noted. The remainder were largely employed in hospitals, schools and factories, with in-home POU uptake also gaining momentum.

The POU share of total cooler placements (POU and bottled water coolers combined) has risen from 7% in 2000 to more than 20% in 2006.

"POU unit numbers have been bolstered by the Europe-wide operations of industry leaders PHS Waterlogic and Waterlogic International," said Zenith research director Gary Roethenbaugh. "The combined involvement of these and other dedicated POU providers, together with bottled water cooler specialists and vending firms, has helped ensure that the POU concept has been embraced by customers."

Together, the UK and France accounted for over 50% of new POU placements in 2006.

Zenith went on to forecast continued double-digit growth up to 2011, taking the total number of units to over 1m and a 32% share of the overall water cooler market.