Photo by laffy4k
A new project between Google and the Pacific Institute will help you find public drinking fountains in a jiff using your smart phone. The duo is building a new app for Android-powered phones that crowd-sources the locations of fountains in an effort to combat bottled water consumption. "Where have all our drinking water fountains gone?" Gleick writes in an article in SF Gate. "They have been disappearing, one by one, from our public spaces, parks, offices. And yet, it has become easier and easier to find expensive and environmentally damaging commercial bottled water. Safe, free drinking water used to be common: we all used public water fountains. Now they are hard to find, dirty, or broken."
To work on fixing this issue, Pacific Institute, which Gleick heads up, and Google are working on WeTap -- and they need your input.
The WeTap app will allow smart phone users to add the location, condition, and quality to a national database of fountains. The uploaded data, and a photo, will be accessible to WeTap users who are looking for a drinking fountain in that area.
Instead of looking for a convenience store for a bottle of water, you can look for some free water. And if cities are seeing that their drinking fountains are being listed in a database, it might be an incentive to clean them up and make them function properly to avoid embarrassment. After all, no city wants to win an award for "Most Disgusting, Defunct Drinking Fountains."
So far, the team is working on building the app and will begin beta testing sometime very soon. If you're interested in helping out, you need to have an Android powered smart phone, a gmail and Picasa account (because of course they want you to only use Google tools) and a willingness to try out some funky-looking water fountains.
Gleick writes, "Why map drinking fountains? Public spaces need to provide public water fountains, and municipal systems must continue to improve the quality of the water they deliver and to educate consumers about the bargain we are getting with tap water. We need our public water fountains to be maintained, cleaned, and made even more widely available, and to be vocal in fighting the trend to eliminate public water fountains."
While the water fountain renaissance gains ground, other organizations are working on making tap water more accessible. TapIt in New York helps iPhone users find participating restaurants, cafes and other locations where they can refill their reusable water bottle, and GlobalTap is working on getting clean water bottle refilling stations set up in the Bay Area of California, with hopes of spreading nation-wide.
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