Why do we buy water? Most of the time it’s just because we desperately need a drink, right now.
It used to be we could quickly quench our thirst at a public fountain. (According to Wikianswers, the first drinking fountain was invented back in 1906 by Luther Haws, a Berkeley-based plumber and sanitation inspector.) But somehow, the presence of drinking fountains in schools, parks, sports venues and other public buildings diminished throughout the 20th century. Old ones fell into disrepair; new ones weren’t prioritized, and slowly but surely, we became accustomed to buying plastic bottles of water.
Fortunately, there are a number of communities making the effort to restore old drinking fountains and ensure that new ones are incorporated into public spaces. This summer, Pilot Projects brought the 100 Fountains design competition to New York, and the city launched its own Water-on-the-Go app. In California, SB1413 was instituted to require water fountains throughout the public school system, and San Francisco added to its network of water fountain/bottle refill Tap Stations. San Francisco also teamed up with TapIt, an organization that partners with private businesses everywhere to provide free water. TapIt now has an application for iPhones so that you can quickly find nearby businesses that will refill your bottle or give you a drink of water on the house. Another organization dedicated to connecting thirsty people to public water is WeTap, which just unveiled an application for Android phones to help people locate drinking fountains (see “Thirsty? Ditch the Plastic Bottle with This Drinking Fountain App” at Good.is).
Good public water is a public good. Let’s all support it by protecting it from pollution, making it freely available, and using it!